NATO talks with Finland and Sweden falter but will continue

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO envoys failed to reach a consensus Wednesday on whether to start membership talks with Finland and Sweden, diplomats said, as Turkey renewed its objections to the two Nordic countries’ accession.

The envoys met at NATO headquarters in Brussels after Finnish and Swedish ambassadors submitted written requests to join the military organization, in a move that marks one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s war against Ukraine. and that it could rewrite the security map of Europe.

The diplomats, who did not ask to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the proceedings, declined to say who or what was delaying the proceedings. They pointed to messages from many of the 30 NATO allies welcoming the request from Finland and Sweden.

Lithuanian ambassador Deividas Matulionis told Swedish and Finnish media that the envoys had exchanged views on their national security. “The discussion was about that, but it’s up to Turkey to comment,” he said.

NATO officials also declined to provide details. They underscored Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement earlier Wednesday that “we are determined to work through all issues and come to a speedy conclusion.” Meetings and diplomatic outreach aimed at resolving the issue will continue.

US President Joe Biden expressed optimism on the matter on Wednesday.

“I think we’re going to be fine,” he said.

Turkey is the only ally that has clearly expressed its opposition, and while Croatia’s president suggested on Wednesday that his country could do the same to secure compensation from Western powers, it is unlikely to derail the Croatian government’s support for membership. from the Nordic couple to NATO.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that Finland and Sweden must show more respect for Turkish sensitivities on terrorism. He refuses to give in to what he says is his alleged support for Kurdish militants.

Erdogan accuses the two countries of turning a blind eye to the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, even though the group is on the European Union’s anti-terrorism blacklist.

“He will not hand us terrorists, but he will ask us to allow him to join NATO. NATO is a security entity… Therefore, we cannot say ‘yes’ to depriving this security organization of security,” he said on Wednesday.

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said his Balkan country should do the same. Milanovic is fighting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic over internal issues.

“We should follow the example of Turkey,” Milanovic said. “Turkey will sell her NATO status at a high price.”

Before Croatian lawmakers ratify the Nordic couple’s NATO candidacy, Milanovic, a socialist, wants neighboring Bosnia’s electoral law changed in favor of Bosnian Croats. But Plenkovic’s conservative party enjoys a slim majority over the Socialists in parliament, and would likely win the vote on Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO bids.

The day had started on an optimistic note in Brussels. Stoltenberg had said the military alliance is ready to seize a historic moment and move quickly to allow Finland and Sweden to join its ranks, after the two countries submitted their applications for membership.

Official apps start a security clock. Russia, whose war in Ukraine prompted them to join the alliance, has warned that it would not welcome such a move and could fight back.

“I warmly welcome the applications from Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg said. “We all agree that we must stand together and we all agree that this is a historic moment that we must seize.”

“This is a good day at a critical time for our security,” said a smiling Stoltenberg, standing next to the two envoys, with the flags of NATO, Finland and Sweden behind him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that the alliance stop expanding to Russia’s borders, and several NATO allies, led by the United States and Britain, have signaled they are ready to provide security support to Finland and Sweden. in case the Kremlin tries to provoke or destabilize. them for as long as it takes to become full members.

The countries will only benefit from the security guarantee of NATO’s Article 5, the part of the alliance’s founding treaty that promises that any attack against one member will be considered an attack against all, once the ratification process of the alliance is concluded. membership, probably in a few months.

A senior US defense official said the Pentagon is having ongoing talks with Sweden and Finland about their security needs to deter Russia as they move toward NATO membership.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private Pentagon discussions, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist on Wednesday and discussed the interim period.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday that US and European allies are “prepared to send a very clear message … that we will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden” until Article 5 of NATO enters into force for them.

Sullivan also said that Biden asked his national security team and cabinet directors about the risks and benefits of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, and they “unanimously” supported the move as both countries are “security partners.” highly capable.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the Nordic requests in a tweet, saying “Putin’s dire ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent.” Germany, Italy, the Baltic countries and the Czech Republic all spoke favorably of the candidates.

The accession process usually takes between eight and 12 months, but NATO wants to move quickly given the threat from Russia that hangs over the heads of the Nordic countries.

Public opinion in Finland and Sweden has swung massively in favor of membership since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Finland and Sweden cooperate closely with NATO. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces, and contribute to alliance military operations and air surveillance.

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Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Lolita C. Baldor, Christopher Megerian and Aamer Madhani in Washington, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.

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

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