Turkey lifts objection to Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday agreed to lift his objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, paving the way for the two Nordic nations to start the accession process.

Driving the news: The leaders of the three countries signed a trilateral memorandum on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, confirming that Turkey would support the accession of Sweden and Finland after weeks of negotiations on counter-terrorism and arms exports.

The big picture: Sweden and Finland quickly turned to NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reversing decades of security policies and opening the door to the alliance’s ninth expansion since 1949.

  • The accession of the two ultra-modern military forces, who have been working closely with NATO for years, was initially considered a fait accompli.
  • But Erdoğan, a strongman who has long been a headache for the Western alliance, suddenly objected in May, claiming that the Nordic countries were home to Kurdish “terrorist organizations”.
  • Both countries had also implemented restrictive arms export policies towards Turkey after Erdoğan launched an attack on Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria in 2019.

Flash Forward: Weeks of indolence seemed to suddenly unravel at this week’s NATO summit, where President Biden is expected to meet Erdoğan on Wednesday.

  • Experts saw Turkey‘s rejection of Sweden and Finland’s requests as leverage to force concessions, including speeding up purchases of F-16 fighter jets from the US
  • The exact details of the trilateral agreement were not disclosed.

What you say: “I am pleased to complete this phase on Finland’s path to NATO membership. I now look forward to fruitful discussions on Finland’s role in NATO with our future allies here in Madrid,” Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement confirming the news.

  • “I warmly welcome the signing of this trilateral memorandum, and I warmly welcome the constructive approach that all three countries have shown during the negotiations,” NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said in a statement. “Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO is good for Finland and Sweden, it’s good for NATO and it’s good for European security.”

go deeper: Why NATO was founded and why Finland and Sweden want to join the alliance

This story is breaking news. Please check again for updates.

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