Nato ministers ‘confident’ Turkey will not stop Sweden and Finland joining

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Foreign ministers from several Nato countries are hopeful that Turkey will change its mind over opposing Sweden and Finland’s accession to the western defence alliance and that the two countries will swiftly join.

“We hope that this situation will be resolved through direct dialogue between the three countries,” said Romanian foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu, speaking before consultations with his Nato counterparts in Berlin on Sunday.

He said there had been “contacts” between Turkey, Sweden and Finland on Saturday night “discussing what the possibilities are for moving forward”. “I understand perfectly the concerns of Turkey . . . [but] we shouldn’t lose momentum . . . especially in the current context,” he said.

Jean Asselborn, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, said he was “confident” that Turkey would relent. “But of course Turkey is sometimes difficult, and we, too, are sometimes difficult,” he said.

Nato foreign ministers will spend Sunday discussing the war in Ukraine and how they can step up aid to the authorities in Kyiv. They will also discuss Nato’s new strategic concept ahead of a summit of the alliance in Madrid in June. This will define the security challenges facing Nato and outline the political and military tasks it will carry out to address them.

Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, said there should be no delay in bringing Sweden and Finland into Nato. “There should be no . . . grey zone,” she said before the informal meeting, adding that it was her hope that the two countries can “join very quickly”.

Melanie Joly, the Canadian foreign minister, said: “The opportunity for the alliance to meet this moment is greater than other bilateral issues.”

On Friday Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came out against allowing Sweden and Finland to join Nato, saying he could not take a “positive view” of the two nations’ potential bids for membership.

As the rationale for his objection, he cited their support for the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) which has waged a decades-long armed insurgency against the Turkish state. It is classified as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the US and the EU. Erdoğan said Scandinavian countries were “like some kind of guest house for terrorist organisations”.

But Turkey appears to be alone in this stance, with most Nato member states expressing strong support for Finland and Sweden’s accession.

The Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers joined their Nato colleagues at a dinner in Berlin on Saturday night to discuss their membership bid.

“If they will decide to seek membership I’m confident that allies will look constructively and positively at their membership of this alliance,” said Mircea Geoană, Nato’s deputy secretary-general.

He described the two countries as “vibrant democracies” with “impeccable” records on the rule of law and “strong militaries” that were “very interoperable with the rest of Nato”.

Baerbock said that many countries had never wanted to join the defence pact “but now they’re being pushed into Nato” by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

The German government would ensure “swift ratification” of Swedish and Finnish membership of Nato, she added. “This can’t be a long drawn-out process,” she said, insisting that the two countries’ accession would “make us even stronger”.

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