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Stoltenberg: NATO seeks ‘united’ path to address Turkey’s concerns

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NATO is in touch with Turkey to find a “united way” forward to address Ankara’s concerns over Sweden and Finland’s bid to join the pact, the bloc’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“When an ally, Turkey, rises concerns, then we have to do what we always do in NATO and that is to sit down, address those concerns and then find a united way forward,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the White House after meeting President Joe Biden.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing now. We are in close contact with Ankara, with the political leadership there. I’ve spoken to President (Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan and in also very close contact with Sweden and Finland,” he said.

Stoltenberg will convene a meeting with senior officials from three nations ahead of a June 28 NATO summit.

In addition, he said Turkey should be recognized as “an important ally,” which he said: “contributes to security in many different ways.”

He cited Turkey’s “strategic geographic location” bordering Iraq and Syria and its “key role” in the fight against the Daesh terror group.

Finland and Sweden said on Wednesday they would continue a dialogue with Turkey over their bids for NATO membership but did not say whether there had been progress on overcoming Ankara’s objections to their joining the military alliance. A bid to join NATO requires unanimous backing from the alliance’s current 30 member states.

All 30 NATO members are ready to come to the table to address Turkey’s security concerns related to the PKK terrorist group, Stoltenberg had also said Wednesday.

The comments come as Ankara continues to protest Finnish and Swedish membership bids to join the trans-Atlantic alliance, maintaining both countries have supported and provided a safe haven to terrorists, including members of the PKK, its Syrian branch YPG and others.

“All NATO allies are of course ready to sit down and address those concerns, including the threats posed to Turkey by PKK, and this is terrorist threats, which of course, is something we are taking very seriously,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the U.S. State Department where he was being hosted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We know that no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey, and Turkey is an important ally not least because of its strategic geographic location bordering Iraq and Syria,” he added.

Stoltenberg said he will convene senior officials from Turkey, Sweden and Finland in Brussels “in the coming days,” adding that he is confident “we will find a united way forward.”

Earlier Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sweden and Finland have not yet provided Ankara with concrete responses that meet its expectations.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO on May 18, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24. But Turkey, a longstanding member of the alliance, has voiced objections to their membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.

Last week, Turkey hosted consultations with Swedish and Finnish delegations on their NATO applications in Ankara. Erdoğan said the meetings had not been “at the desired level.”

Amid Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, Turkey on Tuesday emphasized that these two countries need to make amendments to their counterterrorism laws.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said there are certain conditions that both countries must fulfill. He added that Turkey maintains a dialogue with Sweden and Finland in line with Erdoğan’s directives.

Ankara has said Sweden and Finland must halt their support for the PKK and other groups, bar them from organizing any events on their territory, extradite those sought by Turkey on terrorism charges, support Ankara’s military and counterterrorism operations, and lift all arms exports restrictions. Finland and Sweden have sought to negotiate a solution and other NATO capitals have said they remain confident that the objections raised by Turkey – which has NATO’s second-biggest military – can be overcome.

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