NATO and the United States say they are confident Turkey will not impede the membership of Finland and Sweden in the Western military alliance, despite Ankara expressing reservations.
Turkey laid out demands on Sunday on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, saying it wanted the two Nordic countries to end support for Kurdish groups present on their territory, and to lift the ban on sales of some arms to Turkey.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his talks with Swedish and Finnish counterparts in Berlin had been helpful.
The two countries had made suggestions to respond to Ankara’s concerns, which Turkey would consider.
Cavusoglu added that he had provided proof that “terrorists” were present on their territory.
He singled out Sweden in particular, saying the Kurdish group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), banned as “terrorist” by the US and European Union, had held meetings in Stockholm over the weekend.
Nevertheless, he said, Turkey did not oppose the alliance’s policy of being open to all European nations that wish to apply.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was confident “that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn’t delay the membership”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to go into details after closed-door conversations on the issue in Berlin, but echoed Stoltenberg’s position.
“I’m very confident that we will reach consensus on that,” Blinken told reporters, adding that NATO was “a place for dialogue”.
Finland and Sweden on Sunday took firm steps to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, breaking away from a tradition of non-alignment and neutrality.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto confirmed that his country would apply to join, while Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats announced an official policy change that would pave the way for their country to apply within days.
“Today the Swedish Social Democratic Party took a historic decision to say yes to apply for a membership in the NATO defence alliance,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde tweeted.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has deteriorated the security situation for Sweden and Europe as a whole.”
Today the Swedish Social Democratic Party took a historic decision to say yes to apply for a membership in the NATO defence alliance. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has deteriorated the security situation for Sweden and Europe as a whole. https://t.co/UkEcFhfwXZ
— Ann Linde (@AnnLinde) May 15, 2022
Any decision on NATO enlargement requires approval by all 30 allies and their parliaments.
Ankara, a NATO member for 70 years, is under immense pressure to yield to the accession of Finland and Sweden, which would hugely strengthen the alliance in the Baltic Sea.
If Turkey’s objections are overcome, approval could come in just a matter of weeks, although ratification by allied parliaments could take up to a year, diplomats and officials have said.
Moscow has responded to the prospect of the Nordic states joining NATO by threatening retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical measures”.
Finland’s Niinisto, who spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, said their conversation was measured and did not contain any threats.
“[Putin] confirmed that he thinks it’s a mistake. We are not threatening you. Altogether, the discussion was very, could I say, calm and cool,” Niinisto said in an interview with CNN.