NATO expects Turkey not to hold up Finland, Sweden membership bids

HELSINKI : NATO and the United States said on Sunday (May 15) they were confident that Turkish concerns would not hold up bids by Finland and Sweden to join the Western military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto confirmed that his country would apply to join the alliance, while Sweden is expected to follow suit promptly, moves that have angered Russia.

Turkey, which had surprised its allies by saying it had reservations about Finnish and Swedish membership, laid out its demands on Sunday on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin. Ankara said it wanted the two countries to halt support for Kurdish militant groups that have a presence on their territory, and lift bans on some sales of arms to Turkey.

“I’m confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn’t delay the membership,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to go into details of closed-door conversations in Berlin but echoed Stoltenberg’s position.

“I’m very confident that we will reach consensus on that,” Blinken told reporters, adding that NATO was “a place for dialogue”.

President Tayyip Erdogan took allies by surprise on Friday by saying Turkey had reservations about the Nordic pair’s membership.

Spelling out Turkey’s demands on Sunday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said talks with Swedish and Finnish counterparts in Berlin had been helpful. The two countries had made suggestions to respond to Ankara’s concerns, which Turkey would consider, while he had provided them proof terrorists were present on their territory, he said.

He singled out Sweden in particular, saying the Kurdish militant group the PKK, banned as terrorists by the United States and EU, had held meetings in Stockholm over the weekend.