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27 May, 2022 12:40

NATO chief names conditions for Finland and Sweden

The two countries are unlikely to become candidate members unless they respond to Turkey, Jens Stoltenberg says
NATO chief names conditions for Finland and Sweden

Finland and Sweden are unlikely to become NATO candidate members at the group's upcoming summit on June 28-30 unless they fulfill Turkey’s demands, the bloc's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced during a press conference with Spanish media on Thursday.

The NATO chief acknowledged Ankara’s stance against the acceptance of Sweden and Finland into the bloc and called for Turkey’s concerns and demands to be discussed and resolved.

Ankara has opposed the accession of the two Nordic countries to the US-led military organisation citing their support for what Turkey deems to be terrorist organizations, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement (FETO). Turkey demands that the two nations apply the same terrorist designation to these groups and extradite people linked to the organizations. 

“No country has suffered as much from terrorist attacks as Turkey," Stoltenberg said, adding that "Turkey is an important ally and when an ally has concerns it should be discussed and the problem resolved.” 

He noted that this is how things are done in NATO, recalling that the candidate membership status of the Republic of Northern Macedonia was held up for over 10 years due to a veto from Greece, which cited concerns similar to Turkey’s, and that the issue was eventually resolved.

"Sweden and Finland can participate as guest countries in the NATO Summit to be held in Madrid, but if they do not respond to Turkey's demands before June 28, it will be difficult to fulfill their desire to be become a candidate country ", Stoltenberg said, emphasizing that he wanted this to be “a fast process” and that there was still enough time for that.

The two Nordic states both decided to break with their history of neutrality on May 15 citing Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as motivating them to join NATO. Their membership bids were welcomed by Washington and its European NATO allies, however, Turkey and Croatia have threatened to obstruct the applications unless their national security concerns are addressed.

Moscow has called Sweden and Finland’s applications a “serious mistake with long-lasting ramifications” but has stated that their NATO aspirations were still less concerning than those of Ukraine, whose potential territorial claims could pose “huge risks for the entire continent” if it were accepted into the bloc.