Finland will not join the US-led NATO bloc but Sweden if it later ends up in a dead end on its way up, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said. The official spoke at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Helsinki on Sunday.
“I say that Sweden’s case is ours. That means we will go further hand in hand.” Niinisto stated.
The head of NATO, for his part, signaled that the alliance has not introduced a deadline for accepting Finland’s and Sweden’s bids, but is trying to sort out the differences between them and Turkey. “As soon as possible.” Stoltenberg insisted that the forthcoming summit for the alliance, scheduled for the end of June, has never been seen as the deadline for accepting the two future members.
“The Madrid Summit was never a deadline, at the same time I would like to see this resolved as soon as possible. And that is why we are working hard with our NATO ally Turkey, and also with Finland and Sweden, to address these issues that Turkey has. taken up, said Stoltenberg, referring to Turkey with its new official English-language name.
Stoltenberg’s comments signaled an obvious change in NATO’s attitude to the time frame for Finland’s and Sweden’s potential ascension. Earlier this week, the bloc’s deputy secretary general Camille Grand expressed hopes that the differences between Turkey and the two future member states will be resolved before the summit.
“We are hopeful that the differences will be resolved in time for the summit. It is important to take into account Turkey’s concerns,” Grand told the Swiss TV channel RTS in an interview.
Finland and Sweden have fought to join NATO in the midst of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. While the two Nordic countries have maintained close ties and military co-operation with the US-led bloc for decades, they have de jure remained neutral countries.
However, the two nations’ potential accession to the bloc has come to a standstill as Turkey, a large NATO nation, firmly opposed their membership application. Ankara accused the two countries of acting as “guesthouse for terrorist organizations” and hosts members of banned Kurdish groups as it sees fit “terrorists”. NATO acknowledges Turkey’s concerns, Stoltenberg said, and encourages negotiations between Ankara and the two Nordic countries.
“So when a vital key ally like Trkiye takes up a concern like terrorism, then of course we have to sit down and take this seriously. And that’s exactly what we are doing.” he emphasized.