Contrary to previous assertions that the accession of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would be a quick process, the military alliance’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Monday that “there is no way to say exactly when” this will happen when visiting Sweden.
While the parliaments of several NATO member states have already approved the two Nordic countries’ bid to join the alliance, Turkey has so far not given its green light, citing as concerns the two countries’ ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other groups Turkey labels as terrorists.
Ankara has also voiced its dissatisfaction with Sweden’s arms embargo on Turkey and despite hopes that these issues would be resolved ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of the month, Stoltenberg on Monday said that “the Madrid summit was never a deadline.”
“We are working to find the solution as soon as possible. But when many countries or several countries are involved, there is no way to say exactly when these countries are going to be able to agree,” he said.
During his meeting with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto on Sunday, Stoltenberg called Turkey’s concerns “legitimate.” This was echoed by Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
“We take the Turkish concerns very seriously and other issues and not at least there are security concerns when it comes to the fight against terrorism,” Andersson said in a joint press conference with Stoltenberg on Monday at the prime minister’s official summer residence Harpsund some 120 kilometers west of Stockholm.
The NATO secretary general said that he was hopeful that the latest signals from Sweden and Finland would bring them one step closer to becoming members of the military alliance.
“We’re working hard and actively on these issues in close consultation with Stockholm, with Helsinki, and of course our NATO ally Turkey. And in that context, those signals from Sweden on terrorism and arms exports are important,” Stoltenberg said.