Turkey has given its official approval to Finland and Sweden's applications to join NATO, ending a period of uncertainty after President Erdogan of Turkey appeared to black-ball their membership soon after both countries applied to enter the alliance, last month.
The announcement came on day one of the three-day Madrid Summit – Finnish and Swedish membership of the alliance was not on the official agenda – which is being attended by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) and will cover further plans aimed at supporting Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion starting in February, as well as a joint proposal from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to install a division-sized command structure, and other elements, in each country.
An official statement issued by the office of Finnish President Sauli Niiniistö Tuesday evening read that: "As a result of that meeting, our foreign ministers signed a trilateral memorandum which confirms that Turkey will at the Madrid Summit this week support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO," the English-language portal of public broadcaster Yle reports.
The 30 existing member states will agree on the next steps on the path to NATO membership for both countries, Yle continued.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed the news via the alliance's official website, announcing that: "I strongly welcome the signing of this trilateral memorandum, and I strongly welcome the constructive approach all three countries have shown during the negotiations. Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO is good for Finland and Sweden, it is good for NATO, and it is good for European security."
Just ahead of Tuesday's meeting, President Niinistö had said he was neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the situation, stressing the importance of getting the talks going, Yle reports.
Niinistö was joined by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the summit.
The ensuing memorandum was signed by the foreign ministers of the three countries – Mevlüt Çavusoglu (Turkey), Pekka Haavisto (Finland) and Ann Linde (Sweden), – ´in the presence of both Secretary General Stoltenberg, presidents Niinistö and Erdogan and Prime Minister Andersson, NATO says.
Following the official applications to join NATO, which Finland and Sweden issued on the same day last month, President Erdogan initially rejected the move, saying that both countries harbored Kurdish and other terrorist cells and issuing a list of demands which would have needed to have been met before allowing the process to continue.
So far, no other NATO member state has opposed the applications from Finland and Sweden – while different member states have different ratification processes (for instance some countries carry this out at legislative level, others at executive level), unanimity of all 30 countries is required for membership to be accepted.
Estonia joined NATO in 2004. The accession of both countries to the alliance is of particular significance for Tallinn, though both countries have in any case acted as partner nations to NATO for many years now.
The ongoing Madrid Summit will also see members adopting a new 10-year strategic concept, a document defining security challenges which the alliance faces and political and military efforts needed to address those issues, Yle reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte