Politico: Turkey still not giving way on Finland, Sweden NATO membership
Turkey remains stubborn in obstructing bids from Finland and Sweden to join NATO, over a year after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine which prompted the move, news portal Politico reports.
A high-level meeting Thursday does not seem to have changed much, though Sweden remains optimistic about the overall prospects of success.
Representatives from the three countries came together for the first time since November on Thursday and, while it is not clear exactly what Ankara now wants in return for lifting the continued block, Politico reports, intra-alliance speculation has it that it relates both to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's domestic political considerations – parliamentary and presidential elections are expected in Turkey in May – and his efforts to gain leverage in relations with the U.S.
Nonetheless, frustration is now order of the day, along with talk of Finland possibly even going it alone ahead of Sweden.
Both countries applied for membership at the same time, in May last year, but it is Erdogan's claims of Sweden harboring wanted terrorists, from a Turkish perspective, including from Kurdish groups, which is seen as the biggest barrier – not helped by a Qu'ran-burning incident carried out by a non-Swede (a Danish national in fact) in Stockholm earlier in the year.
Politico reports that July's NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania is a watershed, beyond which a delay from Turkey and/or fellow hold-out Hungary would prove an embarrassment for the alliance.
Helsinki and Stockholm have both received security guarantees from numerous NATO allies in the meantime, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that "It is now time for all allies to conclude the ratification process and welcome Finland and Sweden as full members of the alliance ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius."
Stockholm continues to strike an optimistic tone in any case; Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told Politico that "We have fulfilled all of what we said that we were going to do," while stressing the well-equipped and well-trained forces which both countries could bring, fortifying the northeastern fringes of the alliance in particular," in a way which is unprecedented."
Billström underlined the seriousness of Sweden's application in noting that the country had been militarily non-aligned for 200 years, adding it is only Russia's brutality in Ukraine which has brought this to its close.
Finland, too, will have to fully drop its traditional neutrality, when it comes to its eastern neighbor.
The original Politico piece is here.
Estonia ratified Finland and Sweden's NATO applications in July last year, while 27 other NATO member states have done the same, out of the total 30.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte