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Turkey vetoes Finland’s accession to NATO and paves the way for expansion

Written by Javed Iqbal

  • Leaders of Turkey, Finland and Sweden held talks in Madrid
  • Sweden, Finland, Turkey sign goodwill memorandum
  • Invitation to participate will be presented at the NATO Summit
  • Western strategic change after Russian invasion of Ukraine

MADRID / HELSINKI, June 28 (Reuters) – NATO ally Turkey lifted its veto on Finland and Sweden’s attempts to join the Western alliance on Tuesday, after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security, ending a week-long drama , which tested Allied unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The breakthrough came after four hours of talks just before a NATO summit began in Madrid, averting an embarrassing stalemate at the assembly of 30 leaders aiming to show determination against Russia, now seen by the US-led alliance as a direct security threat rather than a possible adversary.

This means that Helsinki and Stockholm can continue their application to become members of the nuclear-armed alliance, cementing what will be the biggest shift in European security in decades, as the two long-neutral Nordic countries seek NATO protection.

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“Our Foreign Ministers signed a trilateral memorandum confirming that Turkey will … support Finland and Sweden’s invitation to join NATO,” Finnish President Niinisto said in a statement.

The steps for Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO will be agreed over the next two days, Niinisto said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Turkish Presidency confirmed the agreement in separate statements following talks between NATO chief, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Niinisto.

“The key memorandum has just been reached between Sweden, Finland and Turkey. Paves the way for Swedish accession to NATO,” Andersson said in a Twitter post.

ANSWER TO RUSSIA

The solution to the stalemate strengthens the Alliance’s response to Russia – especially in the Baltic Sea, where Finnish and Swedish membership would give NATO military superiority.

In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic countries are already members of NATO. Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, helped topple decades of Swedish opposition to NATO membership.

US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the agreement.

Biden called it in a Twitter post a “decisive step towards a NATO invitation to Finland and Sweden, which will strengthen our Alliance and strengthen our collective security.”

Johnson called it “fantastic news” to launch the summit.

Stoltenberg said NATO’s 30 leaders would now invite Finland, which shares a 1,300km (810-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden to join NATO, and that they would be officially “invited”. He told reporters: “The door is open – Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO will take place.”

But even with a formal invitation, NATO’s 30 allied parliaments must ratify the leaders’ decision, a process that could take up to a year.

TERMS OF THE AGREEMENT

Turkey’s main demand, which came as a surprise to NATO allies at the end of May, was that the Nordic countries should stop supporting Kurdish militant groups present on their territory and lift their ban on some sales. of weapons to Turkey.

Stoltenberg said the terms of the agreement involved Sweden intensifying work on Turkish extradition requests of suspected militants and amending Swedish and Finnish law to tighten their approach to them.

Stoltenberg said Sweden and Finland would lift their restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.

Turkey has raised serious concerns that Sweden has housed what it says are militants from the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. Stockholm denies the accusation.

The Turkish presidency statement said the agreement reached on Tuesday meant: “Full cooperation with Turkey in the fight against the PKK and its affiliates.”

It also said that Sweden and Finland “demonstrated solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”

Biden stressed in public comments with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and King Felipe of Spain the unity of the alliance, saying NATO was “as galvanized as I think it ever has been.”

A senior administration official said Washington had pursued a low-key approach, insisting Turkey had not linked its long-standing request for F-16 fighter jets to secure the deal.

Biden will meet Erdogan during the summit. Erdogan said before traveling to Madrid that he would pressure Biden on a purchase of F-16 fighter jets.

He said he would discuss with Biden the issue of Ankara’s purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia – which led to US sanctions – as well as modernization kits from Washington and other issues.

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Further reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Ali Kucukgocmen and Daren Butler in Istanbul, Andrea Shalal and John Irish in Schloss Elmau, Germany, Simon Johnson in Stockholm, Belen Carreno in Madrid

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Javed Iqbal

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