Turkey has agreed to support Finland’s and Sweden’s bids for NATO membership, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday, in a move that is sure to ratchet up tensions between the bloc and Russia.
“I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Madrid. “Turkey, Finland, and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports and the fight against terrorism,” he added.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto made a similar announcement Tuesday that Turkey would allow the two nations to join, removing a significant barrier for the two countries to join.
“The concrete steps of our accession to NATO will be agreed by the NATO allies during the next two days, but that decision is now imminent,” Niinisto said, adding that Turkey, Sweden, and Finland seek “to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated he would not approve the NATO bids of Finland and Sweden because of the two countries’ support for Kurdish organizations that Turkey has deemed terrorist threats. All 30 NATO members have to sign off on approving both Finland, which shares a lengthy land border with Russia, and Sweden, which has a maritime border with Russia.
As Sweden and Finland are both European Union members, both countries already meet most of the requirements to become NATO members. That includes a democratic system of government, the ability to make contributions to NATO’s security forces, and more.
Both countries’ leaders expressed a desire to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Before the announcement Tuesday, Erdogan told reporters that he had spoken with President Joe Biden over the phone before leaving for Madrid, Spain, saying that Finland’s and Sweden’s applications will be considered.
“The PKK will be on our agenda in my bilateral meetings,” he said, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a Marxist group that has been deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and a host of other countries.
“We will explain our position to Sweden and Finland once again. The PKK should be prevented from acting in these countries,” Erdogan said, adding, “If they are to become a member of NATO, they have to address Turkey’s security concerns. We do not want dry words, we want results.”
Russian officials have not issued any public comments on the NATO membership bids as of Tuesday evening. Earlier this week, Kremlin officials said Moscow would bolster its nuclear and missile capabilities along its border with Finland.
“In the event of such an expansion of NATO, the length of its land borders with Russia will more than double,” former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a Russian state newspaper, adding that for the two Scandinavian countries, “it’s not the best prospect for them to have our Iskanders, hypersonic missiles, warships with nuclear weapons on their doorstep.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times