Jens Stoltenberg was blindsided by Ankara’s objections to Sweden and Finland joining the military bloc
NATO had no reason to believe there would be any problems with membership applications from Sweden and Finland, alliance secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday, admitting he had was caught off guard by “legit” Turkish concerns. He still wants Stockholm and Helsinki to join as soon as possible.
“Earlier in the process, we had no reason to believe there would be any issues,” Stoltenberg told the Financial Times on Monday during a visit to Sweden. Last April, NATO promised Sweden and Finland that the first stage of their membership would take only a few weeks, only to face Turkish objections as Ankara accused the two countries of supporting terrorism.
“Turkish concerns are not new” Stoltenberg added, calling Turkey “an important ally, and when an ally raises security concerns, we must respond to them.”
“These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, this is about arms exports,” Stoltenberg said Sunday in Finland. “We must address the security concerns of all allies, including Turkish concerns about the PKK terrorist group.”
“My goal is to have Finland and Sweden as members as soon as possible. It can still be quick compared to other onboarding processes,” the alliance leader told FT.
Stoltenberg added that he hoped the matter would be resolved. “within a reasonable time” but that there was no deadline for doing so, suggesting it might not be done before the NATO summit in late June.
Ankara has accused Helsinki and Stockholm of harboring members of banned Kurdish groups it sees as “The Terrorists” and block arms exports to Turkey. Sweden and Finland have reportedly complained that Turkey has not made specific demands to them. A ten-point list appeared in Turkish media last week, but it remains unclear whether it represents Ankara’s official position.
Stoltenberg is expected to summon Swedish, Finnish and Turkish officials to Brussels in the coming weeks. Last month Ankara hosted talks with delegations from Stockholm and Helsinki, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later complained they were not “at the desired level.”