NATO officials ‘confident’ of Sweden and Finland’s membership bids despite Turkish reservations – POLITICO

BERLIN — Turkish concerns will not derail Finland’s and Sweden’s ambitions to join NATO, senior alliance officials said on Sunday.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic countries of backing Kurdish groups, throwing a wrench in Helsinki and Stockholm’s plans for early NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine.

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

Membership in NATO requires the support of the current 30 allies, including Turkey.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sought to downplay the risks of Finland and Sweden joining quickly. “Turkey has made it clear that its 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 expressed by Turkey in a way that does not delay accession or the accession process,” he said. “My intention is always to have a fast 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 the rhetoric of 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 have indicated they believe Ankara can be convinced.

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

While declining to provide details of his discussion with his Turkish counterpart and other NATO allies, Blinken said he “heard, almost in every area, very strong support” for Finland and Sweden join the alliance if they choose 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, but have long been members of our European family,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters. “NATO’s doors are open to them, and if they decide to walk through that door, we will welcome them with open arms,” ​​she said.

Responding to concerns about the security of Finland and Sweden between their candidacy and full ratification by the 30-member alliance, the German minister said Berlin would try to minimize the waiting time.

“If our friends in Helsinki and Stockholm come out in favor of membership, which is very likely, we in Germany will do our utmost to ensure that this delicate transitional phase between application for membership and ratification is as short as possible,” Baerbock said.

Stoltenberg, meanwhile, said NATO would take proactive steps to provide Helsinki and Stockholm with additional protection. “Many allies have said they will find fast tracks,” the NATO chief said, but “there will be a delay between application and full membership.”

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

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