Stoltenberg: It is more Important that Sweden and Finland join NATO Sooner rather than Together
The head of NATO said on Tuesday that it was more important that the applications of Finland and Sweden to join the alliance were ratified quickly than that they were approved together, Reuters reported.
The Nordic countries' applications to join the 30-member alliance were ratified by all member countries except Hungary and Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan particularly objects to Sweden's request because it harbors members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara considers terrorists.
Western officials have said they would prefer the two countries to join NATO together, in part because it would be easier to integrate them into military structures at the same time.
But during a meeting with defense ministers in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hinted that this was of secondary importance.
"The main issue is not whether Finland and Sweden are ratified together. The main issue is that both are ratified as full members as soon as possible," he told reporters.
"I am confident that both will be full members and I am working hard for both to be ratified as soon as possible," added Stoltenberg.
"What both sides want"
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a press conference in Stockholm that "obvious" reasons such as the existing close defense cooperation between Sweden and Finland made their joint accession preferable.
"This is what both sides want," he said. "But none of this changes the fact that Turkey makes Turkish decisions... the issue depends on Turkey," the prime minister added.
During a visit to Stockholm on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she hoped the two countries could still join quickly and "hand in hand", given Sweden's responses to Turkey regarding its concerns.
"It was right and important that (Sweden) responded to Turkey's concerns, reached out to Ankara and took tangible steps to address those concerns," Baerbock said.
It is now up to all NATO countries to act in such a way that Sweden and Finland can join together, she said. According to her, this is not only in the interest of the two countries, but also in the interest of NATO.
Ankara was recently angered by Quran-burning protests organized outside the Turkish embassies in Stockholm and Copenhagen by an anti-Islam activist who holds Swedish and Danish citizenship. Swedish authorities condemned the protests but defended the country's free speech laws. Shortly thereafter, Turkey suspended negotiations on the admission of Sweden and Finland.
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