Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lifted his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO after crisis talks with the leaders of the two Nordic countries in Madrid.
Mr Erdogan had stubbornly refused to give the green light to the Nordic couple’s applications – which were submitted in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine – despite calls from his NATO allies to pave the way for them to enter.
But late on Tuesday, the president’s office said it had agreed to back their efforts to join, saying Ankara had “got what they wanted”.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after talks on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO application ahead of the NATO summit. Source: AAP / Henrik Montgomery / TT / EPA
“Turkey has made significant progress in the fight against terrorist organizations,” the office said ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson praised a “very good agreement” with Turkey to support NATO membership and said that the measure would make the alliance stronger.
“Taking the next step towards full NATO membership is of course important for Sweden and Finland. But it is also a very important step for NATO, because our countries will be security providers within NATO,” Andersson said.
Andersson rejected allegations that she had admitted too much to Erdogan to convince him to release his veto against Stockholm’s membership.
“I think this is an agreement that I can fully support,” she said after long talks in Madrid with Erdogan and her Swedish counterpart.
Andersson said that she had been able to explain to the Turkish leader changes in Sweden’s terrorism legislation that would come into force next month.
“And of course we will continue our fight against terrorism and because NATO members are also doing so with closer cooperation with Turkey,” said the Swedish Prime Minister.
Anthony Albanese’s support for Ukraine was declared at the NATO summit
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared Australia’s support for Ukraine, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘illegal war of aggression’ must end.
The number of civilian deaths continues to increase in Ukraine, with missile attacks in Kyiv and Kremenchuk leading to war crimes allegations. The Russian government continues to claim that it is not targeting civilians with its military attacks.
In a speech to reporters from Madrid, Albanese said he stood with NATO leaders in the determination to hold Putin accountable for potential war crimes.
Albanese called the two missile attacks on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk on Monday “disgusting”, Albanese said leaders attending the NATO summit in Madrid would look at further collective action.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m here in NATO … the world is watching what’s going on and condemning it collectively.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already announced a more than sevenfold increase in the number of troops deployed on high alert to more than 300,000.
Stoltenberg called the move “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”
“Our moment 1937”
It comes when the new head of the British army invoked the fight against Nazi Germany in his call for increased mobilization of NATO nations to deal with the threat from Russia.
“This is our moment from 1937,” Patrick Sanders told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) military think tank.
“We are not at war. We must act quickly so that we are not drawn into one by a failure to limit territorial expansion.”
He urged the leaders of the NATO summit to act to stop Russian aggression before it extends beyond Ukraine, posing “an even greater threat to European security after Ukraine than before”.
“The Russian invasion has reminded us of the established maxim that if you want to avert conflicts, it is better to be prepared to fight,” he said.
He supported the position of heavily arming Ukraine to respond to Russia, saying the British army would mobilize in the coming years “to help prevent war in Europe by being ready to fight and win with our NATO allies”.
Australia is considering reopening the Kiev embassy
Albanese said he would like to expand Australia’s diplomatic presence in Ukraine by reopening the Australian embassy in Kyiv after staff were evacuated in early February ahead of Putin’s invasion.
A temporary office was set up in Lviv with officials who also worked from Poland to help Australians escape the fighting.
In addition, he said he would look at options for an ongoing “on the ground” presence in Ukraine in the coming weeks.
“This is one of the issues that has been explored in recent days and weeks. And we will continue to do so,” Albanese said.
He said he was still considering an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to visit Kyiv.
The way cleared for the resumption of trade talks with the EU
Albanese said his meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had resulted in real progress in Australia’s stalled trade talks with the EU.
The meeting lasted more than an hour and marks the first bilateral visit by an Australian Prime Minister.
Albanese also met with South Korean President Yoon Seok-youl one-on-one and took part in talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday morning (AEST).
Later this week, he will visit Paris at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speak at a bilateral meeting ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain. Source: AAP / Lukas Coch
He said that the scrapped submarine agreement with France’s Naval Group and previous position on climate change had hindered trade negotiations with the EU.
“It was clear that there were two obstacles … one was the Australian relationship with France and the recent collapse that had given France a leading role in Europe,” he said.
“The second was Australia’s position on climate change, where Europe’s and the world’s view that Australia was a handbrake for global action.
“Australia was simply not considered fair in taking action on climate change.”
Mr Albanese said he hoped to see an “acceleration” in the coming months, with a number of European trade ministers visiting Canberra for discussions.