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Washington to press Turkey as Finland and Sweden seek NATO breakthrough

US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One for departure to Spain, Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany, 28 June, 2022.

NATO hopefuls Finland, Sweden and the United States expressed optimism on Tuesday (28 June) about Turkey’s veto of their failed bid to join NATO at a summit in Madrid. This is where President Joe Biden will meet his Turkish counterpart.

The White House confirmed that Biden would meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdan during the summit, which starts on Tuesday and lasts until Thursday. However, it was not clear how far Biden would go in order to end the impasse, according to three NATO diplomats.

Erdogan spent more than two hours in talks with Sauli Niinisto (Finland’s President), Magdalena Andersson (Swedish Prime Minister) and Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General.

Negotiations were expected to continue well into the night, and Turkey, Sweden, and Finland agreed to prepare an agreement to address Ankara’s concerns about NATO membership for Helsinki, Stockholm, and Iltalehti, two Finnish newspapers reported.

Biden arrived in Madrid also before attending a dinner with NATO leaders. He did not address the issue directly in his comments to Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, and King Felipe of Spain.

He stressed the unity of NATO, saying that NATO was “as strong as I believe it has ever been.”

France and Spain were indirectly encouraging Turkey to surrender. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, called for a message of unity and force from NATO in Madrid at the Group of Seven summit.

Turkey’s surprise objections to the Nordic countries’ membership bid threatens to overshadow any summit seeking unity, as Russia wage war in Ukraine.

“The general opinion is that the discussions went somewhat more smoothly, which should indicate that understanding has somewhat increased between both sides,” Niinisto from Finland told reporters in Helsinki on Tuesday.

Ann Linde, the Swedish Foreign Minister, said further to daily Svenska Dagbladet: “We are ready for the eventuality of something positive happening today, but it may also take longer.”

Ankara demands that the Nordic countries cease supporting Kurdish militants groups on their territory and lift their bans on arms sales to Turkey.

These conditions are the subject of intense diplomacy by NATO allies as they try to seal the accession record in record time to solidify their response to Russia, especially in the Baltic Sea where Finnish and Swedish membership would give NATO military superiority.

Norway, Denmark, and the Baltic states, which are all NATO members, are located in the Nordic region. Moscow called the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine a “special operation”, and it helped to overturn decades-old opposition from Sweden to NATO membership.

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