Turkey wants ‘concrete steps’ from Sweden and Finland over NATO bids |  NATO News

Turkey wants ‘concrete steps’ from Sweden and Finland over NATO bids | NATO News

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says steps should be taken to address Ankara’s “justified” concerns over Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids.

According to a statement from Turkey’s Communications Directorate on Wednesday, Erdogan told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call that no progress can be made without seeing “concrete steps” from both Finland and Sweden that meet Turkey’s “legitimate expectations”. would fulfil.

The moves could include written commitments to a paradigm shift in fighting “terrorism” and defense industry cooperation, it said.

Turkey’s expectations have not been met by documents from Sweden, said Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, adding that any negotiations on the northern European countries’ accession to NATO must first address Turkey’s demands.

Meanwhile, Stoltenberg said on Twitter he had “constructive talks” with Erdogan ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid, which will take place on June 29-30.

“We discussed the importance of addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns in the fight against terrorism and making progress in the NATO accession process for Finland and Sweden,” he added.

Cavusoglu previously said the two countries should change their laws if necessary to gain Ankara’s support.

The two Nordic countries reversed decades of military non-alignment by applying to join NATO in May after Russia invaded Ukraine.

However, any NATO membership deal must be unanimously approved by all 30 members of the alliance, and Turkey has blocked their bids.

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin attends the SAMAK summit, the Cooperation Committee of the Nordic Social Democratic Parties, in Stockholm, SwedenFinland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has acknowledged that Nordic bids could stall if no deal is reached with Turkey ahead of the NATO summit at the end of June [Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency via Reuters]

Ankara accuses its northern neighbors of providing a safe haven for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), classified as a “terrorist” group by Turkey and its western allies, as well as other Kurdish groups in Syria.

Stoltenberg said on Monday during a visit to Sweden that NATO is working “hard and actively” to resolve Turkey’s concerns “as soon as possible”.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Tuesday acknowledged that Nordic bids could stall if no deal is reached with Turkey before the summit at the end of June.

Mine clearance in the Black Sea

Turkey has suggested ships transporting shipments of Ukrainian grain from the country’s Black Sea ports could be routed through the numerous mines located there.

Ukraine’s grain shipments have stalled since the Russian invasion and port blockade, which has pushed up global prices for grain, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizers. The United Nations is trying to negotiate a deal to resume Ukraine’s grain exports and Russia’s food and fertilizer exports.

Russia said on Wednesday it offers “safe passage” for Ukrainian grain shipments from the ports but is not responsible for setting up the corridors.

“We said we could provide safe passage if these corridors are established,” said Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia.

Cavusoglu said it would “take time” to demin Ukraine’s ports, but a safe sea corridor could be established in areas without mines.

“Since the location of the mines is known, certain security lines would be set up at three ports,” Cavusoglu said. “This [commercial] Ships could thus safely enter and leave ports under the guidance of the Ukrainian research and rescue ships, as envisaged in the plan, without the mines having to be cleared.”

INTERACTIVE-NATO-in-Europe-Map-Map of June 15th

The UN “worked closely with the Turkish authorities on this issue,” said UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, and was grateful that they were “working so constructively to find a solution to this problem.”

Dujarric added: “For this to go ahead, agreement from the Ukrainian side and from the Russian side is needed.”

Kyiv fears that demining its ports would make it far more vulnerable to Russian attacks from the Black Sea.

“Our military are against it, so we have very, very limited optimism for this model,” David Arakhamia, Ukraine’s lawmaker and a member of the country’s negotiating team with Russia, said at an event in Washington on Wednesday.

Cavusoglu discussed the plan with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Ankara last week, but said further talks with Moscow and Kyiv are needed. Lavrov then said Ukraine had a responsibility to clear mines around its ports to allow merchant ships to approach.

Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO and a sizable navy, has good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow and has said it is ready to play a role within an Istanbul-based “observation mechanism” when an agreement is reached.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said a hotline had also been set up between Turkey, Ukraine and Russia. A general from any country can take part in talks via the hotline in order to “discuss the issue in more detail and come to a conclusion,” it said.