Turkey agreed to lift opposition to Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, breaking through a deadlock that clouded the summit.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Turkey has agreed to support Finland and Sweden’s joint NATO membership on the first day of the alliance summit in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
Niinisto said the breakthrough came on Tuesday after the three countries signed a joint memorandum “to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security”.
Before the NATO summit, the leaders of Finland and Sweden had met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make him drop his objections to joining the military alliance.
The Nordic leaders expressed optimism that the Turkish president could override his bid to join the alliance earlier on Tuesday.
After landing in Madrid, Erdogan held more than two hours of talks with Finnish President Niinisto, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We have made progress. That is certainly the case,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.
“We are prepared that something positive will happen today, but it will take more time,” she added. “We must be patient and continue the discussions even after the summit.”
Ankara had objected to Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO based on what it sees as the Nordic pair’s lax approach to groups Turkey sees as threats to national security. Turkey could have prevented Finland and Sweden from joining NATO, as all members of the military bloc must agree to take on new members.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull said NATO chief Stoltenberg said the alliance “has resolved its differences”.
“This enables NATO to put forward a united front in the face of Russian aggression, which is core and central to the objectives of this summit – not just a united front, but an expanded front.” with two new members,” Hull said during his speech. from Madrid.
Other NATO allies, including France and Spain, had indirectly urged Turkey to yield to its bloc of the two potential new Nordic members.
At the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a message of “unity and strength” from NATO in Madrid.
Erdogan had accused Finland and, Sweden of provide,ng a haven for Kurdish militants who have waged an armed insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.
The Turkish leader had also called on the two countries to lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkey in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, on June 28, 2022 [Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office Handout via Reuters]
On Monday, Erdogan said he wanted to see the results of preliminary talks in Brussels before deciding whether Sweden and Finland had done enough to lift their objections to NATO membership.
“We’ll see what point they have” [Finland and Sweden] have reached,” he said Monday before flying to Madrid for the summit.
“We don’t want empty words. We want results.”
‘Importance of the alliance’
In addition to Finland and Sweden’s membership in the 30-strong military alliance, the three-day NATO summit in Madrid will also discuss the war between Ukraine and Russia and NATO’s new strategic concept.
Erdogan is expected to meet on Wednesday with Biden on the sidelines of the meeting aimed at responding to the Kremlin invasion of his pro-Western neighbor.
“Rather, we’re going to do what many other allies have done, signaling publicly and privately that we believe it’s in the best interests of the alliance to get this done,” he added.
“We also believe that Finland and Sweden have taken important steps forward to address Turkey’s concerns.”
Analysts believe the meeting between Erdogan and Biden could play a vital role in breaking Turkey’s resistance to Sweden and Finland’s membership offers.
The two leaders have had a chilly relationship since Biden’s election over US concerns over human rights under Erdogan.
Biden and Erdogan last met briefly in October on the sidelines of a Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Rome.