Turkey raises objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO

MADRID (AP) — Turkey agreed Tuesday to lift its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, a breakthrough in an impasse that mars a summit of leaders in Madrid amid Europe’s worst security crisis in decades sparked by for the war in Ukraine.

After urgent high-level talks, alliance secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said “we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Sweden and Finland to abandon their status as non-aligned countries and apply to join NATO. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked the move and insisted the Nordic couple change their stance on Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey regards as terrorists.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said the leaders of the three countries signed a joint agreement after talks on Tuesday.

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

The deal comes at the opening of a crucial summit dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. US President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders have arrived in Madrid for a summit that will establish the course of the alliance for the next few years. The summit began with a leaders’ dinner hosted by King Felipe VI of Spain at Madrid’s 18th-century Royal Palace.

Stoltenberg said the meeting would map out a plan for the alliance “in a more dangerous and unpredictable world.”

“In order to defend ourselves in a more dangerous world, we have to invest more in our defense,” Stoltenberg said. Only nine of NATO’s 30 members meet the organization’s goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense. Spain, which hosts the summit, spends only half of that.

Top of the leaders’ agenda at Wednesday and Thursday meetings is to strengthen defenses against Russia and supporting Ukraine.

Bidenwho came with the aim of strengthening the resolve of any faltering ally, said NATO was “as united and galvanized as I think we’ve ever been”.

The invasion of Moscow on February 24 shattered European security and led to the bombing of cities and bloody ground battles on the continent. NATO, which had begun to focus its attention on terrorism and other non-state threats, has once again had to face an adversary Russia.

“Ukraine now faces brutality that we have not seen in Europe since World War II,” Stoltenberg said.

Diplomats and leaders from Tuekey, Sweden and Finland earlier held a series of talks in an attempt to break the deadlock over Turkey’s opposition to the expansion. The leaders of the three countries met for more than two hours alongside Stoltenberg on Tuesday before the deal was announced.

Erdogan criticizes what he sees as Sweden’s and Finland’s lax approach to groups Ankara sees as national security threats, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its Syrian extension. US support for Syrian Kurdish fighters fighting the Islamic State group has also angered Turkey for years.

Turkey has demanded that Finland and Sweden extradite wanted individuals and lift weapons restrictions imposed after Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into northeastern Syria.

Ending the deadlock will allow NATO leaders to focus on their key issue: an increasingly unpredictable and aggressive Russia.

A Russian missile attack Monday at 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 NATO, as a message from Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will address NATO leaders by video on Wednesday, called the attack on the mall a “terrorist” act.

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

“Wake up, boys. This is happening now. You will be next, this will knock on your door in the blink of an eye,” Klitschko told reporters at the summit venue.

Stoltenberg said Monday that NATO allies will agree at the summit increase the strength of the alliance’s quick reaction force almost eight times, from 40,000 to 300,000 soldiers. 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 reserves 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 in how difficult it is to take a line on China in NATO’s new Strategic Concept: its once-a-decade set of priorities and goals. The latest document, published in 2010, did not mention China at all.

The new concept is expected to set NATO’s focus on issues ranging from cybersecurity to climate change, and China’s growing economic and military reach, and 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 hard line on Beijing and do not want China portrayed as an opponent.

In the Strategic Concept, NATO is prepared to declare Russia its number one threat.

Russia’s state space agency, Roscosmos, marked the opening of the summit by releasing satellite images and coordinates of the Madrid conference room where it is taking place, along with those of the White House, the Pentagon and the seat of government in London, Paris and Berlin.

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


Associated Press writers Aritz Parra, Ciaran Giles, and Sylvie Corbet contributed from Madrid.


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

Jill Lawless and Joseph Wilson, Associated Press


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