NATO chief welcomes steps already taken by Sweden, Finland

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised steps taken by Sweden and Finland to address Turkey’s concerns over the two countries’ joining the alliance, including related to the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey is blocking Sweden and Finland from becoming NATO members citing their alleged failure to combat Kurdish terrorism, in reference to operatives and sympathisers of the PKK. The PKK has fought a four-decade war for autonomy from Turkey and is labelled as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. The two countries should also lift an arms embargo, the Turkish government says.

“I welcome the serious steps already taken to address Türkiye’s concerns, including in the fight against the PKK,” Stoltenberg said in the Hague, Netherlands on Tuesday. “Our dialogue continues, to find a united way forward.”

Stoltenberg spoke after he sat down with NATO members Netherlands, Denmark, Romania, Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Latvia at an informal meeting at Dutch Prime Minister Mark Ruttte’s official residence in the Hague. They all voiced their support for Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, according to the Associated Press. NATO’s members hope to welcome them as members at a summit in Madrid, Spain on June 29-30.  

Sweden has started to change its legislative framework on counter-terrorism to satisfy Turkey's concerns and, as of July, it will also have stronger legislation on fighting terrorism, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday. Sweden will work to ensure that its legal framework for arms exports reflects its future status as a NATO member, Stoltenberg said on the same day during a joint press conference with Andersson in Harpsund, Sweden.

Turkey is due to hold a panel in Madrid on June 28 to explain its objections to Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported this week. It is set to hold another panel on the issue in Brussels, Belgium on Friday. The city is the headquarters of NATO as well as the European Union.

 

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