NATO: Turkey lifts its veto on the accession of Finland and Sweden

NATO: Turkey lifts its veto on the accession of Finland and Sweden

by Humeyra Pamuk and Anne Kauranen

MADRID (Reuters) – NATO member Turkey lifted its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining on Tuesday after the three countries agreed to protect each other’s security, ending a saga of several weeks which tested the unity of the countries of the Alliance against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

This major step towards an enlargement of NATO was obtained after four hours of discussions prior to the formal opening, in the evening, of the three-day summit of the Alliance in Madrid.

It allows NATO’s 30 members to avoid an embarrassing stalemate as they seek to show their unity and determination at the summit against Russia, which is now seen as a direct security threat rather than a possible adversary. .

Finland and Sweden will now be able to formally submit their applications to join NATO in order to benefit from its protection, confirming what looks like the most important security shift in Europe for decades, while the two Nordic countries had long remained neutral.

In a statement, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto announced the signing of a trilateral memorandum “which confirms that Turkey will (…) support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO”. .

“These concrete steps towards our NATO membership will be agreed by NATO allies over the next two days, but the decision is now imminent,” he added.

The tripartite agreement was confirmed in separate statements by Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Turkish Presidency following talks between Stoltenberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

A “GALVANIZED” ALLIANCE

Via Twitter, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson highlighted “fantastic news”. “Sweden and Finland joining will make our brilliant alliance stronger and more secure,” he wrote.

Jens Stoltenberg indicated that the leaders of the NATO countries would henceforth formally invite Finland and Sweden to join them. “The door is open. The entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO will take place,” he told reporters.

However, even with a formal invitation, it is up to the parliaments of the 30 member countries to ratify the decision of their respective leaders – a process that could take a year.

The main demands of Turkey, which took its NATO allies by surprise at the end of May, concerned the end of Finnish and Swedish support for Kurdish groups considered terrorist by Ankara, as well as the lifting of an embargo on the sale of certain weapons.

According to Jens Stoltenberg, the tripartite agreement provides for Stockholm to intensify its efforts for extradition requests made by Ankara and for Sweden and Finland to implement stricter measures against Kurdish fighters.

It also stipulates that the two Nordic countries will lift restrictions on arms sales to Turkey, said the NATO secretary general.

A senior US representative said on condition of anonymity that US President Joe Biden played a behind-the-scenes role in the negotiations between Turkey, Finland and Sweden.

The head of the White House, who is to meet with Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Madrid summit, did not directly raise the question of the accession of Finland and Sweden when he spoke to the press before the planned dinner with his NATO peers.

Joe Biden, however, underlined the unity of the Alliance, declaring that it was “more galvanized than it has ever been”.

(Report Humeyra Pamuk and Anne Kauranen, with Andrea Shalal, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Ali Kucukgocmen and Daren Butler in Istanbul, Simon Johnson in Stockholm, John Irish in Germany, Steve Holland in Washington; French version Jean Terzian)

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