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Turkey Could Block NATO Membership for Finland, Sweden

NATO’s sole Asian member has suggested it could bar two Nordic countries from entering the alliance.

On Thursday (May 12), leaders in Helsinki said Finland would apply for NATO membership “without delay.” Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, both Finland and neighboring Sweden have increasingly discussed joining the western military bloc. Stockholm is expected to follow Helsinki’s application sometime in the coming days.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previously said that both nations would be “very much welcomed by all 30 allies,” even suggesting their membership could be expedited. In April, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also declared that the White House “strongly supported” membership for the Nordic states.

On Friday (May 13), however, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara couldn’t support the move, claiming that Finland and Sweden are “home to many terrorist organizations.” He added: “We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views.”

For a country to join NATO, it must have unanimous support from all other members.

Turkey Clarifies Position on New NATO Members

Turkey’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Sweden and Finland must stop supporting terrorist groups in their countries, provide clear security guarantees and lift export bans on Turkey as they seek membership in NATO.

Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin, Mevlut Cavusoglu said he met his Swedish and Finnish counterparts and all were seeking to address Turkey’s concerns.

“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Kalin clarified. Turkey’s concerns may pose an obstacle, as any decision on NATO enlargement requires unanimous approval by all 30 member states.

Blinken “Confident” in NATO Consensus on Sweden, Finland Despite Turkey’s Concerns

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday (May 15) that he is “confident” that NATO will accept Finland and Sweden’s applications to join the alliance despite Turkey’s reservations over their membership.

At a news conference, Blinken said he had spoken with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on Sweden and Finland applying for NATO membership.

“I don’t want to characterize the specific conversation that we had either with the foreign minister or within the NATO sessions themselves, but I can say this much: I heard, almost across the board, very strong support for Finland and NATO joining the Alliance if that’s what they choose to do. And I’m very confident that we will reach consensus on that,” Blinken said.

Blinken traveled to Europe this week to meet with fellow NATO members on its ongoing response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the resulting moves from Finland and Sweden to join the security alliance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this week expressed his opposition to Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership.

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