NATO-hopeful Finland and Sweden expressed optimism on Tuesday that Turkey may lift its veto over its stalled attempt to join the military alliance at a summit in Madrid, where US President Joe Biden will meet his Turkish counterpart.
The White House confirmed that Biden would meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during the summit, which begins later on Tuesday and runs until Thursday, although it was unclear how far Biden would go to break the dead end, three NATO diplomats said. After landing in Madrid, Erdogan held more than two hours of talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
With the negotiations planned to continue into the evening, Turkey, Sweden and Finland agreed to prepare a joint memorandum to address Ankara’s concerns about NATO membership for Helsinki and Stockholm, two Finnish newspapers, Helsingin Sanomat and Iltalehti, reported. Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
Biden, who also arrived in Madrid before a dinner with his NATO colleagues, did not raise the issue directly in his public comments with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and King Felipe of Spain. But he emphasized the unity of the alliance and said that NATO was “as galvanized as I think it has ever been”.
Other allies, including France and Spain, indirectly urged Turkey to give in. When French President Emmanuel Macron spoke at the summit of the seven groups in Germany, NATO called for a message of “unity and power” in Madrid. STRIVE FOR UNITY
Turkey’s unexpected objections to the two Nordic countries’ membership application, which, if successful, would be the biggest change in European security in decades, threaten to overshadow a summit seeking unity when Russia goes to war in Ukraine. “The general perception is that the discussions went somewhat better, which should mean that understanding has increased somewhat on both sides,” Finland’s Niinisto told reporters in Helsinki earlier on Tuesday.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde went further and told Svenska Dagbladet (SvD): “We are prepared for something positive to happen today, but it can also take longer.” Ankara’s main demands are that the Nordic countries stop supporting Kurdish militant groups in their territory and lift their ban on certain arms sales to Turkey.
These conditions are now the subject of intense diplomacy as NATO allies seek to seal accession in record time as a way to consolidate their response to Russia, especially in the Baltic Sea, where Finnish and Swedish membership would give the alliance military superiority. In the Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already members of NATO. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which Moscow calls a “special operation”, helped to topple decades of Swedish opposition to joining NATO.
“IF NOT NOW, SO LATER” Before Erdogan went to Madrid, Erdogan maintained his position and said that Turkey wanted action, not words, to address his concerns, adding that he would also push Biden on a purchase of F-16 fighter aircraft.
“We want results. We are tired of sending the ball around in midfield,” he said at Ankara Airport. Erdogan said he had spoken to Biden on Tuesday morning ahead of the planned meeting in Madrid and that he would explain Turkey’s position to allies at the summit and in bilateral meetings.
He said he would discuss with Biden the issue of Ankara’s acquisition of S-400 air defense systems from Russia – which led to US sanctions – and a request to buy 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits from Washington, as well as other bilateral issues. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said NATO needed to focus more on “the fight against terrorism in all its forms”, which “also applies to the candidate countries”.
Spain’s Sanchez, who stands next to Stoltenberg, said NATO had no choice but to recognize Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810 km) border with Russia and Sweden. “We are convinced that if not now, it will be later, but eventually they will join the Atlantic Alliance,” Sanchez said. (Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul, Andrea Shalal and John Irish in Schloss Elmau in Germany, Simon Johnson in Stockholm, Belen Carreno in Madrid, authorship by Robin Emmott, editing by Tomasz Janowski and Gareth Jones)
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)