The leaders of Finland and Sweden on Thursday committed to help assuage Turkey’s resistance to the two Nordic nations’ NATO applications, pledging from the White House that they would continue discussions with Ankara as they work to become full-fledged members of the Western military alliance.
The remarks from Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson came during a Rose Garden event with President Joe Biden, who conveyed the United States’ unequivocal support for Finland and Sweden’s potential NATO membership and described the bloc as “more needed now than ever.”
But Niinistö, speaking after Biden, acknowledged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “has recently expressed concerns about our membership application,” adding: “I want to address these concerns today.”
“Finland has always had broad and good bilateral relations to Turkey,” Niinistö said. “As NATO allies, we will commit to Turkey’s security, just as Turkey will commit to our security. We take their [concerns] seriously.”
Andersson also said Swedish officials “look forward to a swift ratification process by NATO members,” and that they “are right now having a dialogue with all NATO member countries — including Turkey — on different levels, to sort out any issues at hand.”
Erdoğan has previously expressed opposition to Finland and Turkey joining NATO, accusing the nations of harboring terrorists and providing assistance to Kurdish militant organizations such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the mainly Kurdish YPG militia in Syria.
Niinistö referenced those allegations on Thursday, saying Finnish officials “condemn terrorism in all its forms” and “are actively engaged in combatting it.” Finland, he continued, is “open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and constructive manner.”
Niinistö and Andersson’s remarks came after their NATO ambassadors formally delivered the two countries’ membership applications to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday.
As NATO envoys faltered in their initial deliberations over Finland and Sweden’s membership bids, Erdoğan seemingly reiterated his objections; Turkey will not “unquestioningly say ‘yes’ to every proposal brought before us,” he said.
On Thursday, however, Stoltenberg appeared optimistic and said he was “confident that we will come to a quick decision to welcome both Sweden and Finland to join the NATO family.”
The NATO envoys “are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed,” Stoltenberg added, “because when an important ally [like] Turkey raises security concerns, raises issues, then of course the only way to deal with that is to sit down and find common ground.”