Turkey to hold talks with Sweden and Finland on NATO membership

The Finnish and NATO flags are printed on paper in this illustration taken April 13, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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BERLIN, May 14 (Reuters) – The foreign ministers of Finland, Sweden and Turkey will hold aerial talks in Berlin on Saturday to resolve disagreements over Finnish and Swedish plans to join NATO, as the alliance meets in the context of the war in Ukraine.

The Nordic states are preparing to apply for membership of the 30-member transatlantic alliance in response to what they see as a fundamentally changed security situation due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This prompted threats of retaliation from Moscow and objections from NATO member Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters upon his arrival in Berlin that it was “unacceptable and outrageous” that potential new NATO members would lend their support to the Kurdish militant group PKK, potentially complicating the enlargement of the alliance.

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“The problem is that these two countries openly support and engage with the PKK and the YPG. They are terrorist organizations that attack our troops every day,” he said, adding that he would speak with its Swedish and Finnish counterparts on Saturday evening.

“A large majority of the Turkish people are against the accession of these countries (…) and ask us to block this accession”, he said.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavesto said he was confident that a solution would eventually be found. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish news agency TT that she would seek to clear up any misunderstandings.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has promised the two Nordic countries a warm welcome and a speedy accession procedure, but Turkey unexpectedly threw down the brakes on Friday.

Stoltenberg, who cannot attend the Berlin meeting because he tested positive for COVID, spoke by phone with several of the ministers before the talks began, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Finland and Sweden.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday he could not support the Nordic countries’ plans as they harbor “many terrorist organizations”, but his spokesman told Reuters on Saturday that Turkey had no close the door. Read more

Allies will also explore security guarantees for Finland and Sweden for the duration of a ratification period that could last up to a year, during which the Nordic countries are not yet protected by Article 5 of NATO which guarantees that an attack against an ally is an attack in everything.

They will also assess the military situation on the ground and their assistance to the Ukrainian army, and discuss a first draft of NATO’s new strategic concept, its basic military doctrine, which is expected to be approved at a summit of leaders in Madrid at the end of June.

“I think (Russian) President Vladimir Putin needs to look in the mirror. You reap what you sow,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said, adding that she was confident a consensus would be reached for that Finland and Sweden join the Alliance.

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Additional reporting by Riham Alkoussa, Maria Sheahan and Alexander Ratz Editing by David Holmes and Mark Potter

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