18 May 2022, 22:06

Finland, Sweden hand in applications to join NATO

BRUSSELS, May  18, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Finland and Sweden on Wednesday handed
in their bids to join NATO, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine up-ended decades
of military non-alignment.

The applications were warmly received by most allies. But Turkey raised
objections, and ambassadors meeting in Brussels failed to reach consensus on
starting formal membership negotiations.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had promised the process would be
"swift and smooth", but Turkey will have to be mollified before the
ratification can take place.

"The applications you have made today are an historic step. Allies will now
consider the next steps on your path to NATO," Stoltenberg said, after
receiving the bids from the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors.

The membership push could represent the most significant expansion of NATO
in decades. It would double the US-led organisation's presence along Russia's
borders, and President Vladimir Putin has warned it may trigger a response from

But resistance raised by NATO member Turkey threatens to block them, with
Ankara accusing the Nordic countries of acting as safe havens for opposition
Kurdish groups.

In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We asked them to
extradite 30 terrorists but they refused to do so.

"You will not send back the terrorists to us, and then ask our support for
your NATO membership?"

Officials in Brussels confirmed that a meeting on Wednesday of the North
Atlantic Council -- ambassadors from the NATO member states -- broke up without
an agreement to pass to the next stage of membership talks.

"Allies will now consider the next steps on their path to NATO," a NATO
official said.

Earlier, Stoltenberg had said: "The security interests of all allies have
to be taken into account and we are determined to work through all issues and
reach rapid conclusions.

"All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that
we must stand together and we all agree that this is an historic moment which
we must seize."

Helsinki, Stockholm and the other allied Western capitals remain optimistic
they can overcome Turkey's objections.

Several NATO allies, most notably Britain, have offered security assurances
to Finland and Sweden during the application period before they are covered by
alliance's mutual defence pact.

"Over the past few days we have seen numerous statements by allies
committing to Finland and Sweden's security," Stoltenberg said.

"NATO is already vigilant in the Baltic Sea region and NATO and allies
forces will continue to adapt as necessary."


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