BERLIN — Turkish concerns will not derail the ambitions of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, senior alliance officials said on Sunday.
Ankara has accused the two Nordic countries of supporting Kurdish groups, throwing a spanner into the plans of Helsinki and Stockholm for quick NATO accession following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Countries supporting terrorism should not be allies in NATO,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday following talks with the alliance’s foreign ministers in Berlin.
NATO membership requires support from all current 30 allies, including Turkey.
Speaking to reporters following the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sought to play down any risks to swift membership for Finland and Sweden. “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership,” Stoltenberg said, speaking via videolink as he recovers from COVID.
“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 or the accession process,” he said. “My intention is still to have a quick and swift process.”
Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu met on Saturday with Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto to discuss Ankara’s concerns, but the meeting did not lead to a significant shift in the Turkish leadership’s rhetoric. Speaking to Turkish media on Sunday, Çavuşoğlu said that Finland and Sweden “must stop supporting terror groups” and give security guarantees.
But Western officials in Berlin signaled that they believe Ankara can be convinced.
“This is a process, and NATO is a place for dialogue,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after the ministers’ meeting.
While declining to provide details on his discussion with his Turkish counterpart and other NATO allies, Blinken said that he “heard, almost across the board, very strong support” for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance if they choose to apply. “I’m very confident that we will reach consensus,” he said.
In Berlin, many ministers expressed enthusiastic support for Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance — and quickly.
“Sweden and Finland are not only our friends and partners but already for long members of our European family,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters. “The doors of NATO stand open for them, and if they decide to go through this door, then we will welcome them with open arms,” she said.
Addressing concerns about Finland and Sweden’s security in the period between their application and full ratification by the alliance’s 30 members, the German minister said Berlin will strive to minimize the waiting time.
“Should our friends in Helsinki and Stockholm decide in favor of accession, which is very likely, we in Germany will do everything possible to keep this sensitive transitional phase between application for accession and ratification as short as possible,” Baerbock said.
Stoltenberg, meanwhile, indicated that NATO will take proactive steps to provide Helsinki and Stockholm with extra protection. “Many allies have stated that they will find fast-tracks,” the NATO chief said, but “there will be a time period between application and the full membership.”
“We will look into ways to provide security assurances,” he said, “including by increasing NATO presence in the region.”