UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM NATO CHIEF
By Busra Nur Cakmak
ANKARA (AA) – The NATO secretary-general on Wednesday thanked Türkiye, Finland and Sweden for accepting his invitation “to engage in negotiations to find a united way forward.”
Speaking at a press conference at the NATO summit in Madrid, Jens Stoltenberg called the trilateral agreement between Türkiye, Finland and Sweden that will address Ankara's security concerns "good" for the three countries, as well as NATO.
“Today, NATO leaders took the historic decision to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO. The agreement concluded last night by Türkiye, Finland and Sweden paved the way for this decision,” he said.
“The decision ... demonstrates that NATO's door is open,” said the alliance’s chief, adding: “It demonstrates that President Putin did not succeed in closing NATO’s door.”
Inviting Finland and Sweden for membership also shows that NATO respects the sovereign rights of every nation to choose its own path, Stoltenberg added.
Responding to a question on how long the accession process could take, Stoltenberg said the 30 member states will take the decision to their parliaments, but “there is a strong wheel to work with parliaments so they can do the ratification as soon as possible.”
Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden on Tuesday signed a memorandum following four-way talks in Madrid. The agreement allows the two Nordic countries to become NATO members, but conditions them to take steps on Türkiye's terrorism concerns and lift an arms embargo on Ankara.
It also states that Finland and Sweden will work closely with Türkiye on issues related to exchange of information, extradition and in general the fight against terrorism.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join the alliance last month, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, which began in February.
But Türkiye, a longstanding member of the alliance, voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terror groups such as the PKK and its offshoots.
Stoltenberg has constantly said that Türkiye has “legitimate concerns related to their fight against the PKK terrorist group and other organizations,” and that the PKK is considered a terror organization by NATO, the EU, as well as Finland and Sweden.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
- Russia-Ukraine war
Stoltenberg said “President Putin's war against Ukraine has shuttered peace in Europe and has created the biggest security crisis in Europe since the Second World War.”
He said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the summit and made it clear that Ukraine “relies on our continued support,” adding that NATO leaders' “message to him was equally clear. Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes.”
He said NATO leaders agreed on a comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine, and will continue to provide major military and financial aid.
“This includes secure communications, fuel, medical supplies and body armor, equipment to counter mines and chemical and biological threats and hundreds of portable anti drone systems,” said Stoltenberg.
“Over the longer term, we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet era equipment to modern NATO equipment, boost interoperability and further strengthen its defense and security institutions,” he added.
Saying that a strong and independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro Atlantic area, the secretary-general said: “All of this shows our commitment to Ukraine's future and that our commitment is unshakable.”
He added: “This war will like most of the wars at some stage, end at the negotiating table. But it is important that Ukraine is able to get an agreement on their terms, which is acceptable for Ukraine.
“And, therefore, we know that there is a close link between what they can achieve around the negotiating table and their strength on the battlefield. Our focus now is to support them on the battlefield with many different types of lethal or non-lethal support."