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Turkey OKs Sweden, Finland in NATO     06/29 06:24

   

   MADRID (AP) -- Turkey agreed Tuesday to lift its opposition to Sweden and 
Finland joining NATO, ending an impasse that had clouded a leaders' summit 
opening in Madrid amid Europe's worst security crisis in decades, triggered by 
the war in Ukraine.

   After urgent top-level talks with leaders of the three countries, alliance 
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that "we now have an agreement that 
paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO." He called it "a historic 
decision."

   Among its many shattering consequences, President Vladimir Putin's invasion 
of Ukraine has prompted Sweden and Finland to abandon their long-held 
nonaligned status and apply to join NATO as protection against an increasingly 
aggressive and unpredictable Russia -- which shares a long border with Finland. 
Under NATO treaties, an attack on any member would be considered an attack 
against all and trigger a military response by the entire alliance.

   NATO operates by consensus, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had 
threatened to block the Nordic pair, insisting they change their stance on 
Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists.

   After weeks of diplomacy and hours of talks on Tuesday, Finnish President 
Sauli Niinist said the three leaders had signed a joint agreement to break the 
logjam.

   Turkey said it had "got what it wanted" including "full cooperation ... in 
the fight against" the rebel groups.

   Stoltenberg said leaders of the 30-nation alliance will issue a formal 
invitation to the two countries to join on Wednesday. The decision has to be 
ratified by all individual nations, but he said he was "absolutely confident" 
Finland and Sweden would become members, something that could happen within 
months.

   Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the agreement was "good for 
Finland and Sweden. And it's good for NATO."

   She said completing the process of membership should be done "the sooner the 
better."

   "But there are 30 parliaments that need to approve this and you never know," 
Andersson told the Associated Press.

   Turkey hailed Tuesday's agreement as a triumph, saying the Nordic nations 
had agreed to crack down on groups that Ankara deems national security threats, 
including the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and its Syrian extension. It 
said they also agreed "not to impose embargo restrictions in the field of 
defense industry" on Turkey and to take "concrete steps on the extradition of 
terrorist criminals."

   Turkey has demanded that Finland and Sweden extradite wanted individuals and 
lift arms restrictions imposed after Turkey's 2019 military incursion into 
northeast Syria.

   Turkey, in turn, agreed "to support at the 2022 Madrid Summit the invitation 
of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO."

   Details of exactly what was agreed were unclear. Amineh Kakabaveh, an 
independent Swedish lawmaker of Kurdish origin whose support the government 
depends on for a majority in Parliament, said it was "worrisome that Sweden 
isn't revealing what promises it has given Erdogan."

   Andersson dismissed suggestions Sweden and Finland had conceded too much.

   Asked if the Swedish public will see the agreement as a concession on issues 
like extraditions of Kurdish militants regarded by Ankara as terrorists, 
Andersson said "they will see that this is good for the security of Sweden."

   U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated the three nations on taking a 
"crucial step."

   Amid speculation about a U.S. role in ending the deadlock, a senior 
administration official said Washington did not offer any concessions to Turkey 
to coax it to accept a deal. But the official said the U.S. played a crucial 
role in helping bring the two parties closer together, and Biden spoke with 
Erdogan Tuesday morning at the behest of Sweden and Finland to help encourage 
the talks.

   The agreement came at the opening of a crucial summit, dominated by Russia's 
invasion of Ukraine, that will set the course of the alliance for the coming 
years. The summit was kicking off with a leaders' dinner hosted by Spain's King 
Felipe VI at the 18th-century Royal Palace of Madrid.

   Top of the agenda in meetings Wednesday and Thursday is strengthening 
defenses against Russia, and supporting Ukraine.

   Moscow's invasion on Feb. 24 shook European security and brought shelling of 
cities and bloody ground battles back to the continent. NATO, which had begun 
to turn its focus to terrorism and other non-state threats, has had to confront 
an adversarial Russia once again.

   Biden said NATO was "as united and galvanized as I think we have ever been."

   A Russian missile strike Monday on a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian 
city of Kremenchuk was a grim reminder of the war's horrors. Some saw the 
timing, as Group of Seven leaders met in Germany and just ahead of the NATO 
gathering, as a message from Moscow.

   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is due to address NATO leaders 
by video on Wednesday, called the strike on the mall a "terrorist" act.

   Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko traveled to Madrid to urge the alliance to 
provide his country with "whatever it takes" to stop the war.

   "Wake up, guys. This is happening now. You are going to be next, this is 
going to be knocking on your door just in the blink of an eye," Klitschko told 
reporters at the summit venue.

   Stoltenberg said the meeting would chart a blueprint for the alliance "in a 
more dangerous and unpredictable world" -- and that meant "we have to invest 
more in our defense," Stoltenberg said. Just nine of NATO's 30 members meet the 
organization's target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense. 
Spain, which is hosting the summit, spends just half that.

   Stoltenberg said Monday that NATO allies will agree at the summit to 
increase the strength of the alliance's rapid reaction force nearly eightfold, 
from 40,000 to 300,000 troops. The troops will be based in their home nations, 
but dedicated to specific countries on NATO's eastern flank, where the alliance 
plans to build up stocks of equipment and ammunition.

   Beneath the surface, there are tensions within NATO over how the war will 
end and what, if any, concessions Ukraine should make to end the fighting.

   There are also differences on how hard a line to take on China in NATO's new 
Strategic Concept -- its once-a-decade set of priorities and goals. The last 
document, published in 2010, didn't mention China at all.

   The new concept is expected to set out NATO's approach on issues from 
cybersecurity to climate change -- and the growing economic and military reach 
of China, and the rising importance and power of the Indo-Pacific region. For 
the first time, the leaders of Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand 
are attending the summit as guests.

   Some European members are wary of the tough U.S. line on Beijing and don't 
want China cast as an opponent.

   In the Strategic Concept, NATO is set to declare Russia its number one 
threat.

   Russia's state space agency, Roscosmos marked the summit's opening by 
releasing satellite images and coordinates of the Madrid conference hall where 
it is being held, along with those of the White House, the Pentagon and the 
government headquarters in London, Paris and Berlin.

   The agency said NATO was set to declare Russia an enemy at the summit, 
adding that it was publishing precise coordinates "just in case."

 
 
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