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Nordic NATO bids move forward but Turkey could derail deal

Nordic NATO bids move forward but Turkey could derail deal
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Stockholm: Sweden and Finland on Tuesday pushed ahead with their bids to join NATO even as Turkey insisted it won't let the previously non-aligned Nordic countries into the alliance because of their alleged support for Kurdish militants.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's strongly worded objections caught the two applicants and other NATO members off guard, complicating what was envisioned to be a swift expansion of the alliance in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Turkey's statements have changed very quickly and hardened in recent days. But I am sure that we will resolve the situation with constructive talks, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said during a visit to Stockholm, the Swedish capital.

The Finnish parliament on Tuesday resoundingly rubber-stamped the government's decision to seek membership in an 188-8 vote, while Sweden's foreign minister signed a formal application letter to be handed over to the alliance's headquarters in Brussels.

But Erdogan's objections on Friday and again on Monday raised questions about how quickly the application process could advance, as unanimity among all 30 NATO countries is required for new members to join. The Turkish leader accused the Nordic countries of giving safe haven to terrorists" and imposing sanctions on Turkey an apparent reference the suspension of Swedish and Finnish weapons exports in 2019 after Ankara sent troops across the border into Syria to attack Kurdish fighters. Erdogan also dismissed a Swedish plan to send a team of diplomats to Turkey to discuss the issue, saying don't wear yourselves out.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told domestic news agency TT that a series of diplomatic efforts are underway, but declined further comment.

Turkey's objections appeared to have come as a surprise also in Washington, whose relations with Ankara have been strained in recent years. The U.S. suspended Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program over Turkey's decision to purchase a Russian missile defense system. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was traveling to Washington for meetings Wednesday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Meanwhile, the White House announced that President Joe Biden would meet Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Washington on Thursday to discuss their NATO applications as well as strengthening our close partnerships across a range of global issues and support for Ukraine.

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