Turkey drops objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO

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Spain’s King Felipe VI listens to President Joe Biden’s speech at the Madrid Royal Palace in Madrid, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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Turkey agreed on Tuesday to drop its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, ending a stalemate that had clouded the opening of a leaders’ summit in Madrid amid the worst crisis security in Europe for decades, triggered by the war in Ukraine.

After urgent talks at the highest level with the leaders of the three countries, the alliance’s general secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, declared that “we now have an agreement which paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join. to NATO”. He called it a “historic decision”.

Among its many shattering consequences, President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Sweden and Finland to abandon their status as long-standing non-aligned countries and seek to join NATO to protect themselves against a Russian increasingly aggressive and unpredictable – which shares a long border with Finland. Under NATO treaties, an attack on one member would be considered an attack on all and would trigger a military response from the entire alliance.

NATO operates by consensus and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to block the Nordic pair, insisting they change their stance on Kurdish rebel groups Turkey considers terrorists.

After weeks of diplomacy and hours of talks on Tuesday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said the three leaders had signed a joint agreement to break the deadlock.

Turkey said it had “got what it wanted”, including “full cooperation…in the fight against” rebel groups.

Stoltenberg said leaders of the 30-nation alliance will issue a formal invitation for the two countries to join on Wednesday. The decision needs to be ratified by all individual nations, but he said he was “absolutely confident” Finland and Sweden would become members, which could happen within months.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the deal was “good for Finland and Sweden. And that’s good for NATO.

She said the completion of the accession process should be done “the sooner the better”.

“But there are 30 parliaments that have to approve this and you never know,” Andersson told The Associated Press.

Turkey hailed Tuesday’s deal as a triumph, saying the Nordic nations had agreed to crack down on groups Ankara sees as national security threats, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its extension Syrian. He said they had also agreed “not to impose embargo restrictions in the field of defense industry” on Turkey and to take “concrete steps for the extradition of terrorist criminals”.

Turkey has demanded that Finland and Sweden extradite wanted people and lift arms restrictions imposed after Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into northeast Syria.

Turkey, in turn, agreed “to support at the 2022 Madrid summit the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO”.

Details of what had been agreed were unclear. Amineh Kakabaveh, an independent Swedish lawmaker of Kurdish origin on whom the government’s support for a majority in parliament depends, said it was “worrying that Sweden is not revealing the promises it made to Erdogan”.

Andersson dismissed suggestions that Sweden and Finland had conceded too much.

Asked if the Swedish public would see the deal as a concession on issues such as the extradition of Kurdish activists considered by Ankara to be terrorists, Andersson said “they will see that it is good for the security of Sweden”.

US President Joe Biden praised the three nations for taking a “crucial milestone”.

Amid speculation about the United States’ role in breaking the impasse, a senior administration official said Washington had offered no concessions to Turkey to induce it to agree to a deal. But the official said the United States had played a crucial role in helping to bring the two sides together, and Biden spoke with Erdogan on Tuesday morning at the request of Sweden and Finland to help encourage the talks.

The agreement came at the opening of a crucial summit, dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which will determine the course of the alliance for years to come. The summit began with a leaders’ dinner hosted by Spain’s King Felipe VI at Madrid’s 18th-century Royal Palace.

Strengthening defenses against Russia and supporting Ukraine are high on the agenda for Wednesday and Thursday’s meetings.

The February 24 invasion of Moscow shook European security and brought bombings of cities and bloody ground battles back to the continent. NATO, which had begun to focus on terrorism and other non-state threats, once again had to face an adversarial Russia.

Biden said NATO was “as united and galvanized as I think we’ve ever been.”

Monday’s Russian missile attack on a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk was a grim reminder of the horrors of war. Some saw the moment, as the Group of Seven leaders met in Germany and just before the NATO gathering, as a message from Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is due to address NATO leaders via video on Wednesday, called the strike on the mall a “terrorist” act.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko traveled to Madrid to urge the alliance to provide his country “everything it takes” to stop the war.

“Wake up, guys. It is happening now. You’re going to be next, it’s going to knock on your door in a heartbeat,” Klitschko told reporters at the summit venue.

Stoltenberg said the meeting would map out a plan for the alliance “in a more dangerous and unpredictable world” – and that meant “we need to invest more in our defence”, Stoltenberg said. Only nine of NATO’s 30 members meet the organization’s goal of devoting 2% of gross domestic product to defence. Spain, which hosts the summit, only spends half of it.

Stoltenberg said Monday that NATO allies will agree at the summit to increase the strength of the alliance’s rapid reaction force nearly eightfold, from 40,000 to 300,000 troops. The troops will be based in their home countries, but dedicated to specific countries on NATO’s eastern flank, where the alliance plans to build up stockpiles of equipment and ammunition.

Beneath the surface, there are tensions within NATO over how the war will end and what concessions, if any, Ukraine should make to end the fighting.

There are also differences over how hard of a line to take on China in NATO’s new Strategic Concept – its set of priorities and goals for a decade. The last document, published in 2010, did not mention China at all.

The new concept is expected to define NATO’s approach to issues ranging from cybersecurity to climate change – and China’s growing economic and military reach, as well as the growing importance and power of the Indo-Pacific region. For the first time, the leaders of Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand are attending the summit as guests.

Some European members are wary of the US hardline on Beijing and don’t want China seen as an adversary.

In the strategic concept, NATO is about to declare Russia its number one threat.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency marked the opening of the summit by releasing satellite images and coordinates of the Madrid conference room where it is being held, as well as those of the White House, the Pentagon and government headquarters in London. , Paris and Berlin.

The agency said NATO was set to declare Russia an enemy at the summit, adding that it was releasing specific coordinates “just in case”.

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Associated Press writers Aritz Parra, Ciaran Giles, Sylvie Corbet and Zeke Miller in Madrid, Karl Ritter in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Sharon P. Juarez