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NATO Chief Says Turkey’s Concerns on Finland, Sweden are Legitimate

NATO Turkey Stoltenberg
NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says Turkey has legitimate security concerns regarding Sweden’s and Finland’s application to join the Alliance. Credit: NATO, via Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that the concerns expressed by Turkey on the accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance are legitimate.

Speaking alongside Finnish President Niinistö, the Secretary General said that Ankara has “legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, it’s about weapons exports.”

“We have to remember and understand that no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey,” said Stoltenberg.

Sweden and Finland both applied to join the security alliance in May following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Turkey has since said it opposes the accession of the two countries, as it accuses them of supporting terrorist groups, including a Kurdish militant organization that both the U.S. and the EU have labeled a terrorist group.

Stoltenberg stressed that Finland’s and Sweden’s membership in NATO would further strengthen the Nordic region of the Alliance. “Allies are considering the next steps on your path to NATO. We have to address the security concerns of all Allies, including Turkish concerns about the terrorist group PKK,” Stoltenberg underlined.

Stoltenberg: Discussions with Turkey and the Nordic countries

“So I remain in close contact with you, Sauli, and your colleagues, with Sweden, and with our Ally Türkiye on the way ahead. My staff also remain in close dialogue with officials from all three countries, to address the legitimate Turkish concerns, and to move forward on your accession to our Alliance,” he said.

Stoltenberg emphasized that the security of Finland and Sweden matters to NATO and that NATO remains vigilant with an increased presence in the region and more exercises.

He mentioned exercise BALTOPS, which is currently underway with over 7,000 forces from fourteen NATO Allies, as well as from Finland and Sweden. Finnish and Swedish forces are also participating in NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence exercise across the Baltic region and Poland. “These are powerful demonstrations of NATO’s commitment to this region of strategic importance,” Stoltenberg emphasized.

The Secretary General spoke on the opening day of the Kultaranta Talks, which this year has the theme of “Strong, stable and responsible North,” together with President Niinistö and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. Mr. Stoltenberg discussed the challenging security environment with Russia’s “cruel war against a peaceful neighbor.”

He warned that “Putin’s ambitions go beyond Ukraine. The so-called ‘security treaties’ he presented to NATO and the United States last December made demands not only on Ukraine, but also on NATO [, and…] demands amount to the complete re-write of the European security order, enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act,” Stoltenberg said, adding that “One of the main principles of the Final Act is the right of each nation to choose its own path.”

“The applications by Finland and Sweden to join our Alliance send a clear message. Aggression does not pay. Intimidation does not work…NATO’s door remains open,” the Secretary General said.

Related: Why Turkey Doesn’t Want Finland and Sweden to Join NATO

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