Finland and Sweden have expressed optimism that they can find common ground with Turkey despite its objections to NATO membership amid a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at easing their path to the EU. military alliance of 30 countries.
Turkey surprised many NATO allies on Monday by saying it would not support Sweden and Finland joining after the two countries made the widely expected decision to agree to apply to join the US-led alliance this week.
“Turkey’s statements have changed very quickly and become tougher in recent days,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said during a speech in the Swedish parliament.
“But I am sure that with the help of constructive discussions, we will resolve the situation.”
Niinisto said he spoke by telephone with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a month ago and the message back then supported Finland and Sweden joining NATO.
“But last week he said ‘unfavorable’,” Niinisto said.
“That means we have to continue our talks. I’m optimistic.”
Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will travel to the United States to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday to discuss nominations, the three administrations announced separately on Tuesday.
Finn Niinisto said rapid ratification by the United States could ease the path to membership for the two Nordic neighbours, who joined the European Union together in 1995.
“If you have a quick process there, it helps the whole process and the timing of the whole process,” Niinisto said during a press conference with Andersson in Stockholm.
Both countries are due to submit their official bids on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the White House said the administration was confident NATO could reach consensus on the offers.
“We know there is a lot of support for Sweden and Finland to join NATO,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary.
Turkey says Sweden and Finland are harboring individuals linked to groups it considers terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Saturday, ahead of talks with her Turkish counterpart at a NATO meeting in Berlin, that Sweden – like the rest of the EU – views the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Erdogan also said Turkey would oppose NATO offers from those who imposed sanctions on it.
Sweden and Finland imposed arms export embargoes on Turkey after its 2019 incursion into Syria.
From Stockholm, Andersson said Sweden was ready to iron out any obstacles to talks with Turkey.
“We look forward to having a bilateral dialogue with Turkey,” Andersson said.
“I see, on top of that, that when Sweden and Turkey are members of NATO, there are also opportunities to develop our bilateral relations – between our countries.”
The Finnish parliament on Tuesday approved, as expected, a proposal, by 188 votes in favor against eight votes against, to apply for NATO membership.
Niinisto and the government officially decided on Sunday that Finland would apply, but the decision was pending formal approval by parliament.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters that the country’s ambassador to NATO would submit its NATO bid in Brussels, possibly as early as Wednesday, along with Sweden.
It remains to be seen how big the obstacle of Turkey’s objections will be.
“They know that Sweden and Finland in the alliance is good for the alliance as a whole and I don’t foresee them blocking that in the end,” said Anna Wieslander of the think tank on Atlantic Council security policy.
“But they will negotiate along the way.”
Australian Associated Press