Turkey lifts veto on Finland, Sweden joining Nato, clearing path for expansion

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberga, Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu react after signing a document during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, June 28, 2022. REUTERS

MADRID/HELSINKI — Nato ally Turkey lifted its veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the Western alliance on Tuesday after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security, ending a weeks-long drama that tested allied unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The breakthrough came after four hours of talks just before a Nato summit began in Madrid, averting an embarrassing impasse at the gathering of 30 leaders that aims to show resolve against Russia, now seen by the U.S.-led alliance as a direct security threat rather than a possible adversary.

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It means Helsinki and Stockholm can proceed with their application to join the nuclear-armed alliance, cementing what is set to be the biggest shift in European security in decades, as the two, long-neutral Nordic countries seek Nato protection.

“Our foreign ministers signed a trilateral memorandum which confirms that Turkey will … support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of Nato,” Finnish President Niinisto said in a statement.

The steps for Finland and Sweden’s accession to Nato will be agreed on in the next two days, Niinisto said.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Turkey’s presidency confirmed the accord in separate statements, after talks between the Nato chief, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Niinisto.

“Key memorandum just reached between Sweden, Finland and Türkyie. Paves way for Swedish accession to Nato,” Andersson said in a Twitter post.

Response to Russia

The resolution of the deadlock solidifies the alliance’s response to Russia – particularly in the Baltic Sea, where Finnish and Swedish membership would give Nato military superiority.

In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already Nato members. Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, helped overturn decades of Swedish opposition to joining Nato.

U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the deal.