NATO chief confident Nordic pair will join despite holdups

Jan 9, 2023, 2:58 PM | Updated: Jan 10, 2023, 5:03 am

Flags of NATO members fly outside the NATO headquarters ahead of NATO Secretary General Jens Stolte...

Flags of NATO members fly outside the NATO headquarters ahead of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel signing a joint declaration on NATO-EU Cooperation at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

(AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed confidence Tuesday that Finland and Sweden will join the military alliance, just days after the government in Stockholm said it had done all it could to satisfy Turkey’s reservations about its membership.

Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland dropped their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied to join NATO in May. All 30 member countries must agree to admit the two Nordic neighbors to the world’s biggest security organization.

Turkey has held up the process. The Turkish government wants Finland and Sweden to crack down on groups it considers to be terrorist organizations and to extradite people suspected of terror-related crimes. Turkey’s foreign minister said last month that Sweden had not addressed his country’s concerns.

“I’m confident that the accession process will be finalized and that all NATO allies will ratify the accession protocols in their parliaments. That also goes for Turkey,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.

Stoltenberg said the membership process normally takes years but that all 30 members invited Finland and Sweden in July to join and signed their accession protocols. Since then, 28 countries have endorsed the move through their national procedures. Only Turkey and Hungary have not.

“This has been the quickest accession process so far in NATO’s modern history,” Stoltenberg said.

He also played down any risk that Finland and Sweden might come under attack or pressure for trying to join the military alliance, saying the United States and other allies have offered the two bilateral “security assurances” until they are full members.

“It’s inconceivable that Finland and Sweden will face any military threat without NATO reacting to that,” Stoltenberg said.

Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sweden was not even “halfway” through fulfilling its commitments to Ankara. His remarks came after a Swedish court ruled against extraditing a journalist wanted by Turkish authorities for alleged links to the failed coup there in 2016.

But Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said his country had lived up to its commitments and that the decision now “lies with Turkey.” Turkey has not yet reacted publicly to his remarks.

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NATO chief confident Nordic pair will join despite holdups