Turkey Drops Objection to Finland, Sweden Joining NATO

Alliance leader hails 'historic decision'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 19, 2022 7:15 AM CDT
Updated Jun 28, 2022 9:28 PM CDT
Erdogan Takes Hard Line Against Finland, Sweden Joining NATO
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his ruling party legislators, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, May 18, 2022.   (Turkish Presidency via AP Photo)

(Newser) Update: Turkey agreed Tuesday to lift its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, ending an impasse that had clouded a leaders’ summit opening in Madrid amid Europe’s worst security crisis in decades, triggered by the war in Ukraine. After urgent top-level talks with leaders of the three countries, alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that "we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO," the AP reports. He called it "a historic decision.” Turkey said it had "got what it wanted" including "full cooperation" against Kurdish rebel groups. Stoltenberg said leaders of the 30-nation alliance will issue a formal invitation to the two countries to join on Wednesday. Our story from May 19 follows:

The United States struggled Wednesday to get clarity from Turkey over the severity of its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took an increasingly tough line against their membership bids. In a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the United Nations, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu offered mixed signals, the AP reports. He affirmed his country’s support for NATO’s "open-door" policy and its understanding of Finland and Sweden's desire to join the alliance following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But he also repeated Erdogan’s demands that Turkey’s security concerns about the candidate nations be addressed.

"Turkey has been supporting the open-door policy of NATO even before this war," he said. "But with regard to these candidate countries, we have also legitimate security concerns that they have been supporting terrorist organizations and there are also export restrictions on defense products," Cavusoglu said. Later, speaking to Turkish journalists, Cavusoglu stepped up his criticism, accusing Sweden of not just backing groups linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but also providing arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey views as an extension of the militant group.

His remarks came as US officials try to determine how serious the often mercurial Erdogan is about the matter and what it might take to get him to back down. Initially seen in Washington and other NATO capitals as an easily resolved minor distraction to the process of enlarging the alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdogan's verbal volleys toward Finland and Sweden are attracting more concern. The two Nordic nations submitted formal applications Wednesday with the hope of joining as quickly as possible. Analysts say the "pragmatic" Erdogan might end up dropping his objections if the US agrees to sell Turkey new F-16 fighters. (Read more NATO stories.)

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