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23 Jun, 2022 09:38

NATO chief ‘cannot guarantee’ membership for Finland and Sweden

Bringing the two Nordic nations into the military bloc is still the goal, Jens Stoltenberg says
NATO chief ‘cannot guarantee’ membership for Finland and Sweden

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said it’s uncertain whether the military bloc will be able to overcome Turkey’s opposition to membership for Finland and Sweden.

The two Nordic nations applied to join the US-led bloc in May, voicing concerns over their security amid Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

NATO was hoping to swiftly admit the new members, but Turkey blocked the move, demanding that Finland and Sweden stop harboring members of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and imposing arms embargoes on Ankara.

In an interview with the news website Politico on Wednesday, Stoltenberg was asked whether he felt he was being “held hostage” by Turkey, as NATO needs the support of all 30 members to accept a new country.

“We have a system where we are based on consensus, that's the way we make decisions in NATO, then there will often be a situation where one or a few allies disagree with the rest, and then we need to overcome then,” the NATO chief said.

Stockholm and Helsinki “applied for not so many weeks ago, and my aim is still to make sure that they can join with us soon. I cannot guarantee but I'm saying that's still my aim,” he added.

Stoltenberg praised Turkey as a country “of great importance for our alliance” due its “key role” in fighting terrorism, and its geographical position on the Black Sea and bordering Iraq and Syria.

“So, when they raise concerns, of course, we have to sit down and then address those concerns. And that's exactly what we now are consulting on. And then I hope that we can find a solution to allow Finland and Sweden to become members as soon as possible,” the secretary general said.

The US has also voiced its support for bringing Finland and Sweden into NATO, and thus strengthening the bloc’s northeast flank against Russia.

The issue was addressed on Wednesday by the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, Karen Donfried.

“We are confident that this will be resolved in a positive way. There is broad and deep support across the NATO alliance for Finnish and Swedish accession,” she said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

When asked if she believed a consensus on the Swedish and Finnish accession bids could be reached at the NATO summit in Madrid on June 29 and 30, Donfried replied: “I will say that we're certainly pushing for that.”

Russia has said Sweden and Finland would only damage their national security by joining NATO, and has pledged to adjust its military posture in the region if they join the Western military bloc.