US acknowledges Turkey’s ‘legitimate concerns’ over NATO bids


The United States recognizes Turkey’s legitimate concerns over Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids and is hopeful for a “positive resolution” soon, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that discussed the proposed accession of the two Nordic nations to NATO, Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said their participation would bolster the NATO alliance.

“Both countries will enhance NATO’s situational awareness and capabilities in the high north,” she said, adding they would also enhance the national security interests of the United States.

In her remarks, Donfried recalled that Ankara raised concerns about some of Finland and Sweden’s policies in advance of their accession.

“We recognize Turkey’s legitimate concerns regarding terrorism, which NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg has also highlighted,” she said.

Turkey, Finland and Sweden are currently in talks to address the concerns, which include the PKK terrorist group’s activities in both countries.

“The decision within NATO is a consensus decision. And Turkey has raised some concerns relating to terrorism and the approach of Sweden and Finland. Of course, the United States along with Turkey shares the desire to end the support of terrorism, and we all take this very seriously,” Donfried underscored.

The last talks took place on Monday, which she called “constructive.”

“So we are confident that there will be progress here. And that will allow the accession protocols to be signed and the ratification process here to move forward,” she added.

Sweden and Finland, amid their NATO bids, are under pressure from Turkey to end their support for the PKK and its Syrian branch YPG, with Ankara saying that NATO is a security alliance and that any potential members must take a clear stance against terrorism.

The United States is hopeful that there will soon be a positive resolution of the issues between Turkey, Finland and Sweden regarding the NATO accession bids of the two Nordic countries, the State Department’s top diplomat for Europe also said.

“We are confident that this will be resolved in a positive way. There is broad and deep support across the NATO alliance for Finnish and Swedish accession,” she said.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the bids have faced opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for terrorist groups and arms embargoes on Ankara.

NATO leaders will meet in Madrid on June 29-30. Any NATO membership requires the approval of all 30 members of the alliance. Turkey has been a NATO ally for more than 70 years and has the alliance’s second-largest army.

Asked if Donfried believed whether all parties will be on the same page by the Madrid summit next week, she said: “I will say that we’re certainly pushing for that.”

Speaking to reporters in Brussels earlier this week following their talks with top representatives from Sweden, Finland and NATO, Turkey’s senior officials did not express the same sense of urgency as Donfried and said the NATO summit was not a deadline.

Any progress on the Nordic membership bids “now depends on the direction and speed at which these countries will take steps,” Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said.

While the problem is officially between Sweden, Finland and Turkey, many analysts have speculated that a more direct involvement from US President Joe Biden could facilitate a breakthrough.

Some believe such an involvement could be a bilateral meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Biden.

In a call with reporters, a senior administration official detailed Biden’s next bilateral meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the upcoming G-7 and NATO summits but did not announce one with Erdoğan.

“Although obviously the format of these meetings leaves ample opportunity for leaders to engage on the margins,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Ties between the United States and Turkey remain sour as the two NATO allies are at odds over a host of issues including Syria policy and Ankara’s purchase of Russian defense systems.

Biden and Erdoğan last met in person in October 2021 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome.

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