Turkey, Finland and Sweden have reached a last-minute deal for the two Nordic countries to become NATO members on the eve of the military alliance’s summit in Madrid.
NATO said a trilateral deal was reached at a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in the Spanish capital.
After a period of intense negotiations, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, said Tuesday night: “I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.”
“Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including those related to arms exports and the fight against terrorism,” he added.
Historically, Sweden and Finland had refused to seek NATO membership, in part due to mixed public opinion and caution around their security relationship with Russia. But that changed dramatically after Russia launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February, prompting both countries to request to join.
It means Swedish and Finnish leaders will be able to attend the NATO summit on Wednesday and Thursday as guests, meaning their countries are on a firm path to full membership, subject only to ratification by member states. That is considered a technical step.
Turkey had said it would block requests from Sweden and Finland unless it received satisfactory assurances that the Nordic countries are willing to address what it sees as support for Kurdish groups it designates as terrorist organizations, in particular the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK.
Because NATO operates by consensus, it is possible for one country in the 30-member military alliance to block a request, giving Ankara leverage when the two countries sought to join earlier this year.
Turkey “got what it wanted” from Sweden and Finland before agreeing to back their campaigns to join NATO, Erdogan’s office said on Tuesday. “Turkey has made significant progress in fighting terrorist organizations,” the Turkish statement said, adding: “Turkey got what it wanted.”
The text of the memorandum signed by the three leaders says that Finland and Sweden will “extend their full support” to Turkey on matters of national security.
The Nordic countries said they confirmed the PKK was a proscribed organization, and in a key concession, the two countries “would not provide support” to the Syrian Kurdish groups PYD/YPG that have been active in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. Finland and Sweden stated in the agreement that there were no national arms embargoes related to sales to Turkey and the three countries said they would work together on extradition requests.
Sweden hosts 100,000 Kurdish refugees and Turkey has sought the extradition of people it says are linked to the PKK or the Syrian YPG.
Stoltenberg said Finland and Sweden had agreed to “further amend their domestic legislation” to give Turkey the anti-terrorism guarantees it had sought, and that they would “suppress PKK activities” and “reach an agreement with Turkey on extradition.” .
Joe Biden congratulated the three countries for securing the deal, which he described as “a crucial step towards a NATO invitation to Finland and Sweden, which will strengthen our Alliance and bolster our collective security.”
Boris Johnson welcomed the announcement, tweeting: “Fantastic news as NATO Summit kicks off. The membership of Sweden and Finland will make our brilliant alliance stronger and safer.”