Sweden and Finland are firmly on track to become NATO members this year, Sweden’s foreign minister said on Wednesday, amid tense negotiations with Turkey over their admission.
Tobias Billström, when asked by CNBC’s Silvia Amaro if Sweden’s membership is really happening given the tensions with Ankara, replied: “Of course it is.”
“After all, we have 28 member states out of 30 that are already members of NATO and that have already ratified the requests for Sweden and Finland. So yes, of course, it’s only a matter of time.”
He added that it was good news that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced this week that the country was ready to resume talks after their indefinite suspension at the end of January.
Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership centers around what it says is a haven for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
During a NATO meeting in Madrid in June 2022, the three countries signed an agreement outlining a path to compromise, with Ankara demanding additional counter-terrorism guarantees, particularly from Sweden.
Hungary is another ratification obstacle, although the local media reported On Tuesday, its parliament could ratify the NATO membership of Finland and Sweden early next month.
“We have been working to fulfill everything we committed to in the memorandum,” Billström told CNBC on Wednesday. This included preparing to submit new legislation to the Swedish parliament in March, he said.
“Now is the time for the Turkish parliament to start the ratification process. We believe it is right and proper.”
He also said that the goal was Sweden’s membership at the NATO summit in July.
“There are two reasons for this. One is when NATO can bring in new member states, and the other is that there are military strategic points to consider. Sweden and Finland have a common interest in joining because of the military situation here in the region Baltic Sea.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin “violated the world security order” by invading Ukraine, Billström added, and the fact that Sweden was willing to break its 200-year-old policy of military non-involvement showed “how serious the situation is”.
Latvian President Egils Levits told CNBC on Tuesday that it is in the interest of all NATO member states that its “informal allies,” Sweden and Finland, become “real family members.”[s].”
“I think Turkey will accept it also for the sake of Turkey itself, also and for the whole of NATO. I know that there are negotiations between Sweden and Turkey about this, and I am optimistic,” Levits told Steve Sedgwick in Warsaw.
Regarding the war in Ukraine, Levits noted, “This conflict can end when Russia returns to its internationally recognized borders. Without that, the conflict cannot end because [it] it is clear that on one side is the aggressor, on the other is the victim.”
IN speech in Warsaw on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said the US commitment to NATO and Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says an attack on one member is an attack on all, is “rock solid”.
Biden will hold talks at the Polish presidential palace on Wednesday with the leaders of the so-called Bucharest Nine, which includes NATO members Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
It follows Biden’s visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Monday, during which he pledged to continue military aid and strengthen sanctions against Russian businesses and their elite.
Putin also delivered a much-anticipated speech on state television to lawmakers and military officials on Tuesday.
During the nearly two-hour speech, he he claimed Ukraine and the West were responsible for the invasion, which he ordered almost a year ago, and announced that Russia would suspend its participation in the New START treaty with the US, which limits strategic nuclear arsenals.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the decision made the world a more dangerous place and called on Russia to reconsider, Reuters wrote.