Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday announced that Turkey has agreed to support Finland and Sweden joining the NATO military alliance after weeks of angering partners by insisting it would veto the Scandinavian countries' accession.
The announcement came ahead of the official start of a NATO summit in Madrid during a meeting between Niinisto, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The meeting was brokered by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The accord was sealed with a signing ceremony. Niinisto said the text, "underscores the commitment" of all three countries "to extend their full support against threats to each other's security."
Turkey, too, issued a statement, saying it "got what it wanted," and that it had, "made significant gains in the fight against terrorist organizations."
Turkey had previously accused the Scandinavian countries of harboring terrorists due to their perceived support for individuals associated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara views as a terror organization.
Turkey had also demanded the Scandinavian countries lift arms embargoes put in place after Turkish incursions into Syria, and called for the extradition of individuals granted political asylum in Finland and Sweden whom Ankara says took part in a failed 2016 coup attempt.
NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg said the memorandum signed by the three parties Tuesday, "addresses Turkey's concerns, including arms exports and the fight against terrorism."
'A shot in the arm' for NATO
Swedish Prime Minister Andersson hailed the breakthrough as "a very good agreement."
"Taking the next step toward a full NATO membership is of course important for Sweden and Finland. But it's also a very important step for NATO, because our countries will be security providers within NATO," the Swedish leader said.
The US called the news a "powerful shot in the arm" for NATO.
Dismissing speculation that Ankara would use its leverage to pressure the US to relent on its refusal to deliver high-tech fighter jets, senior US officials at the summit said Turkey did not make the request.
"There was no request from the Turkish side for the Americans to make a particular concession," a senior US official told reporters.
Here, too, Turkey confirmed that it had not made demands for advanced US warplanes. Turkish President Erdogan will meet with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
'The door is open'
Speaking after the memorandum of agreement signing Tuesday, Secretary-General Stoltenberg said, "The door is open — the joining of Finland and Sweden into NATO will take place."
It is expected to be a foregone conclusion that NATO's 30 member states will now extend an official invitation during the summit, nevertheless, their individual parliaments must ratify the decision, with the process potentially taking as long as a year.
Finland and Sweden have long been militarily nonaligned but their proximity to Russia — Finland, for instance, shares a 1,300-kilometer (810-mile) border — at a time of blatant military aggression by Moscow prompted both to seek membership in the 73-year-old NATO military alliance.
js, kb/wd (Reuters, AP)