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NATO countries sign protocols for the accession of Sweden and Finland

BRUSSELS – The 30 NATO allies signed the accession protocols of Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, sending the two nations’ membership applications to the alliance’s capitals for legislative approvals – and possible political problems in Turkey.

The move further increases Russia’s strategic isolation following its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and military fighting there since.

“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” said the head of the alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally approved the decisions taken at the NATO summit in Madrid last week, when the leaders of the member states invited Russia’s neighbor Finland and Scandinavian partner Sweden to join the military club.

However, securing parliamentary approval for the new members in Turkey may still pose a problem, although Sweden, Finland and Turkey reached a memorandum of understanding at the Madrid summit.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Ankara could block the process if the two countries fail to meet Turkey’s demands to extradite people it considers terror suspects. The people wanted in Turkey have links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric blamed for Turkey’s failed 2016 coup.

He said the Turkish parliament could refuse to ratify the deal. This is a powerful threat because joining NATO must be formally approved by all 30 member states, giving each one the right to block.

Stoltenberg said he did not expect a change of heart. “There were security concerns that needed to be addressed. And we did what we always do in NATO. We found common ground,” he said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine added extra urgency to the process. This would house the two nations in the Western military alliance and give NATO more leverage, especially in the face of a military threat from Moscow.

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“We will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” Stoltenberg said.

At a press conference, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland were asked whether the memorandum named persons who should be extradited to Turkey. Both ministers said such a list was not part of the agreement.

“We will fully implement the memorandum. In the memorandum, of course, there are no lists or anything like that, but what we will do is to have better cooperation when it comes to terrorists,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto was equally emphatic.

“Everything that was agreed in Madrid is stated in the document. There are no hidden documents or any agreements behind it,” Haavisto said.

Each nation in the alliance has different legislative challenges and procedures to deal with, and it could take several more months for the two northern nations to take their place as official NATO members.

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Denmark and Canada were the fastest of the blocs. They submitted their ratification documents in Washington as the first NATO countries just hours after the accession protocols were signed in Brussels, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told The Associated Press by telephone.

“It was a good signal not only to Sweden and Finland but also to other NATO countries that the speed of ratification is important,” he said. “We hope this will inspire other countries to act quickly.”

The documents must be handed over to Washington, as it was there in 1949 that the founding treaty of NATO was signed.

Germany’s parliament is due to ratify the membership bids on Friday, according to the Free Democrats, a partner party in the country’s coalition government. Other parliaments may not get to the approval process until after long summer vacations.

“I look forward to a speedy ratification process,” Haavisto said.

Meanwhile, the protocols approved on Tuesday already bring both nations deeper into NATO’s fold. As close partners, they had already attended some meetings that involved issues that immediately affected them. As official invitees, they can attend all ambassadors’ meetings, even if they do not yet have the right to vote.

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Geir Moulson in Berlin and Karl Ritter in Unterseen, Switzerland, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

NATO countries sign protocols for the accession of Sweden and Finland

Source link NATO countries sign protocols for the accession of Sweden and Finland

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