NATO officials ‘trust’ Swedish, Finnish membership bids despite Turkish reservations – POLITICO

BERLIN — Turkish concerns will not derail Finnish and Swedish ambitions to join NATO, senior alliance officials said on Sunday.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic countries of supporting Kurdish groups, scuppering Helsinki and Stockholm plans for rapid NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Countries that support terrorism should not be allies in NATO,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday after talks with alliance foreign ministers in Berlin.

NATO membership requires the support of all 30 current allies, including Turkey.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tried to play down the risks to Finland and Sweden’s speedy membership. “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership,” Stoltenberg said, speaking via video link as he recovers from COVID.

“I am confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that does not delay the membership or accession process,” he said. “My intention remains to have a quick and fast process.”

Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu met with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Saturday to discuss Ankara’s concerns, but the meeting did not lead to a significant change in rhetoric. of the Turkish leaders. Speaking to Turkish media on Sunday, Çavuşoğlu said Finland and Sweden “must stop supporting terrorist groups” and give security guarantees.

But Western officials in Berlin said they believe Ankara can be won over.

“This is a process, and NATO is a place for dialogue,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after the ministers’ meeting.

While he declined to provide details of his discussion with his Turkish counterpart and other NATO allies, Blinken said he “heard, almost in general, very strong support” for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance if they decide to apply. “I am very confident that we will reach a consensus,” he said.

In Berlin, many ministers expressed their enthusiastic support for Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance, and quickly.

“Sweden and Finland are not only our friends and partners, they are already long-standing members of our European family,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters. “The doors of NATO are open to them, and if they choose to walk through this door, we will welcome them with open arms,” she said.

Addressing concerns about the security of Finland and Sweden in the period between their application and full ratification by the 30-member alliance, the German minister said Berlin would strive to minimize the waiting time.

“If our friends in Helsinki and Stockholm decide in favor of accession, which is very likely, we in Germany will do our best to make this delicate transition phase between application for accession and ratification as short as possible,” Barbock said.

Stoltenberg, meanwhile, indicated that NATO will take proactive steps to provide additional protection for Helsinki and Stockholm. “Many allies have stated that they will find fast tracks,” the NATO chief said, but “there will be a period of time between application and full membership.”

“We will seek ways to provide security guarantees,” he said, “including by increasing NATO’s presence in the region.”

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