NATO chief to go to Turkey over Finland, Sweden membership

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) is welcomed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ahead of the official group photograph during the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 29, 2022. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday he would go to Turkey “in the near future” to discuss Finland and Sweden’s nearly completed process to join the military alliance, Agence France-Presse reported.

The trip to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be a sensitive one, as Turkey is, along with Hungary, the last of NATO’s 30 countries to ratify the accession protocol that would make Finland and Sweden new members.

The process needs to be unanimous, but Erdoğan in early October warned that Turkey would not ratify the two countries’ membership until “the promises” they made were kept.

The two Nordic nations earlier this year abandoned their longstanding policies of non-alignment, asking to join NATO because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how it reshuffled Europe’s security.

In June Turkey, Sweden and Finland struck a deal that included provisions on extraditions and the sharing of information.

It addressed Erdoğan’s main demands that Finland and Sweden cease hosting Kurdish militants outlawed in Turkey whom he regards as “terrorists” and hand over Kurds wanted by Ankara.

Stoltenberg, speaking at a press briefing after welcoming Romania’s prime minister to NATO headquarters, hailed the “close contact” Stockholm and Helsinki now had with Ankara “at all levels.”

“I will go to … Istanbul to meet with President Erdoğan in the near future myself,” he said.

It would follow up on a visit new Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is to make in the coming days.

Stoltenberg also said Hungary “has made it clear” that its parliament would vote on ratification of the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden in the next month or so.

“I’m confident that all allies will ratify the accession protocol,” he said.

The NATO chief added, in a veiled warning to Russia, that security guarantees extended to Finland and Sweden pending their membership process continued to apply.

“If there were any kind of pressure against Finland and Sweden, it is inconceivable that the NATO allies should just stand idly by and not react. So we will react if there is any kind of pressure against Finland and Sweden,” he said.

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