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Finnish, Swedish leaders meet Erdogan over NATO bids, UK PM says talks ‘difficult’ with Turkey – Details

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson left and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands before a meeting in Madrid

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands before a meeting in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Photo : AP

Madrid: As Turkey continues to block the possibility of Sweden and Finland joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, leaders of the two countries met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey can essentially veto Finland and Sweden from joining NATO since all members must agree to taking on new members.
Erdogan has stubbornly refused to greenlight the applications from the Nordic pair — lodged in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine — despite calls from his NATO allies to clear the path for them to enter. He was expected to meet with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday on the sidelines of the gathering focused on responding to the Kremlin’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

Ankara has accused Finland and especially Sweden of offering a safe haven to Kurdish militants who have been waging decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. The Turkish leader has also called on the two countries to lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkey in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.

What have the three countries said?

“We have made progress. That is definitely the case,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said he was neither “optimistic nor pessimistic at this stage”.

But Erdogan said on Monday before flying to Madrid that Turkey does “not want empty words. We want results”.

What do other parties say?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is mediating the talks, said he hoped to make “progress” on the issue at the summit which ends on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden and Erdogan would “at some point” meet on Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit. But he stressed the United States was not adopting a “brokering role” and would leave the NATO secretary general in charge. “We also believe that Finland and Sweden have taken significant steps forward in terms of addressing Turkey’s concerns,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Tuesday that talks with Turkey over Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO would be “difficult” but said “progress” had been made. “Finland and Sweden, breaking decades of historic neutrality, are now wanting to join. It will be a difficult conversation,” he told reporters on the plane taking him to Madrid for a NATO summit.
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