Finland, Sweden to send teams to Turkey to discuss Nato bids, Finnish foreign minister says

Turkey earlier this month objected to the two Nordic countries' accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. PHOTO: REUTERS

HELSINKI (REUTERS) - Finland and Sweden will send delegations to Ankara on Wednesday to try to resolve Turkish opposition to their applications for membership of the Nato military alliance, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday (May 24).

“We are sending our delegations to visit Ankara, actually both Sweden and 
Finland. This will happen tomorrow, so the dialogue is continuing,” Haavisto said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has objected to Sweden and  Finland joining Nato, held phone calls with the leaders of the two Nordic countries on Saturday and discussed his concerns.

Turkey says Sweden and Finland harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

“We understand that Turkey has some of their own security concerns vis a vis terrorism ... We think that these issues can be settled. There might be also some issues that are not linked directly to Finland and Sweden but more to other Nato members,” Haavisto said.  

Erdogan told Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Saturday that Ankara expected concrete steps to address its concerns, according to the Turkish presidency.

He also said an arms exports embargo imposed on Turkey after its Syria incursion in 2019 should be lifted, it added.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Saturday he had held “open and direct” talks on the phone with Erdogan.  

“I stated that as Nato allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” Niinisto tweeted after the call.

Erdogan spoke also with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday, telling him that Ankara would not look positively on Sweden and Finland’s Nato bids unless they clearly show cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other issues.

Separately, the United States is confident that Finland and Sweden will be able to resolve Turkish concerns about their seeking membership in Nato, Deputy US Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said on Tuesday (May 24).

"(We are) confident that Finland and Sweden will be able to resolve those (concerns) with the Turks directly," Hicks said while speaking alongside her Norwegian counterpart in Oslo.

Ankara surprised its Nato allies earlier this month by objecting to the two Nordic countries' accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

All 30 Nato states must give their approval before a new member can be admitted and thus benefit from the collective-security guarantee.

Finland and Sweden said they have been spurred into joining Nato by Russia's Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine, reversing generations of military non-alignment to bring about the biggest shakeup in European security in decades.

The Nato summit will be held on June 28-30.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.