Turkey has opposed Sweden and Finland’s bid for NATO membership, but the United States says the concerns can be addressed.
US President Joe Biden said Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO would be successful, despite the objections raised by Turkey to their requests.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Biden said Wednesday, when asked by a reporter how to persuade Ankara to drop its opposition.
Turkey accused Sweden and Finland of harboring “terrorists”, while it criticized Stockholm for suspending arms sales to Ankara in 2019 over its participation in the war in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier urged his country’s NATO allies to “respect” its concerns about European countries’ efforts to join the US-led military coalition, which was prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Our only expectation from NATO allies is … that we first understand and respect our sensitivity and ultimately support it,” Erdogan told AKP lawmakers in parliament.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Finland and Sweden formally submitted their applications for NATO membership on Wednesday. “This is a good day at a critical time for our security,” he wrote on Twitter.
– Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) May 18 2022
But diplomats said the meeting of NATO envoys in Brussels failed to reach consensus on starting membership talks amid Turkish objections. The applications must be considered by 30 NATO member states in a process expected to take about two weeks.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Wednesday afternoon.
“Expanding NATO membership is high on the agenda,” said Christine Salome of Al Jazeera, in a report from the United Nations.
Salome said Cavusoglu told reporters before the meeting that “Turkey is aware that Sweden and Finland have security concerns as a result of Russia’s position in Ukraine, but Turkey also has security concerns that need to be addressed.”
For his part, Blinken said he was confident the two countries could work through their differences.
“Sources here indicate that Turkey is not opposed to NATO expansion per se, if these security concerns are actually addressed,” Salome said.
After the meeting, the Turkish Foreign Minister told reporters that Blinken said during their talks that necessary messages would be sent regarding Turkey’s security concerns.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day in Washington, D.C., US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration remains “confident” that the problems can be resolved.
“We are confident that Finland and Sweden will enter NATO at the end of the day and that Turkey’s concerns can be addressed,” said Sullivan of the White House. “We feel good about where this is going,” he said.
“I expect NATO to speak with one voice in support of Finland and Sweden at the end of the day.”
If objections are overcome, and accession talks go as expected, Sweden and Finland could become members within a few months. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to move quickly.
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