ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - Türkiye has raised "important security concerns" about Finland and Sweden's NATO membership bids, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday.
The top US diplomat said he is "confident" that the effort to gain Türkiye and Hungary's support for their additions to the transatlantic alliance is "moving forward in a process that is appropriate, and that we will soon welcome them as members."
"Turkey has raised important security concerns in this process, and the process is being used effectively and productively to address those concerns," Blinken said as he hosted his Finnish and Swedish counterparts at the State Department.
"What both countries have done in engaging with Turkey, and with NATO itself, has been to address those concerns in tangible ways. And we've seen these countries take tangible steps to, again, address the concerns that Turkey has raised," he added.
Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO in May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia's war against Ukraine.
But Türkiye -- a NATO member for more than 70 years -- voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.
Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit in June to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.
Speaking alongside Blinken and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Stockholm is working to address concerns raised by Türkiye "step by step" within the framework of the trilateral memorandum and Sweden's domestic laws.
"Within those limits, everything will be fulfilled," he said. "I, myself, am going to Ankara to continue the discussions with mine and Pekka's Turkish colleague on the spot, and I hope that the outcome of our discussion will also bring us forward."
"The constant dialogue between the governments between the authorities in the various countries -- it's also important to underline the support of the fulfillment of a memorandum," he added.
Haavisto said in subsequent meetings with Turkish officials, "many issues have been clarified regarding Turkey's concern on the terrorism. PKK as an organization -- is a forbidden organization in the whole Europe, including Finland and Sweden."
"Those issues that are mentioned in the three-part memorandum are very much fulfilled," he added.