By LORNE COOK
BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO envoys failed to reach a consensus on Wednesday on whether to start membership talks with Finland and Sweden, diplomats said, as Turkey renewed its objections to the accession of the two Nordic countries.
The envoys met at NATO headquarters in Brussels after ambassadors from Finland and Sweden submitted written requests to join the military organization, in a move that marks one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of the war. of Russia against Ukraine – and which could rewrite the security map of Europe.
The diplomats, who did not wish to be named due to the sensitive nature of the proceedings, declined to say who or what was blocking the proceedings. They highlighted messages from many of the 30 NATO allies welcoming the request from Finland and Sweden.
Lithuanian Ambassador Deividas Matulionis told Swedish and Finnish media that the envoys exchanged views on their national security. “The discussion was about that, but it’s up to Turkey to comment,” he said.
NATO officials also declined to provide details. They pointed to remarks made earlier on Wednesday by General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg that “we are determined to resolve all issues and reach a speedy conclusion.” Meetings and diplomatic contacts aimed at resolving the issue will continue.
US President Joe Biden expressed his optimism about it on Wednesday.
“I think we’ll get through this,” he said.
Turkey is the only ally to have made its opposition clear – and while the Croatian president suggested on Wednesday his country could do the same to secure a compromise from Western powers, he is unlikely to be able to derail the support of the Croatian government for the Nordic pair’s accession to NATO. .
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists Finland and Sweden need to show more respect for Turkish sensitivities on terrorism. He refuses to budge on what he says is their alleged support for Kurdish militants.
Erdogan accuses the two countries of turning a blind eye to the activities of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, even though the group is on the European Union’s counterterrorism blacklist.
“You will not deliver terrorists to us, but you will ask us to allow you to join NATO. NATO is a security entity. It’s a security agency. Therefore, we cannot say ‘yes’ to depriving this security organization of security,” he said Wednesday, in an address to lawmakers from the ruling party.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said the Balkan country should do the same. Milanovic quarrels with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic over domestic issues.
“We should follow Turkey’s example,” Milanovic said. “Turkey will sell its NATO status at a high price.”
Before the Croatian parliament ratifies the Nordic couple’s candidacy for NATO, Milanovic – a socialist – wants the electoral law of neighboring Bosnia to be changed in favor of the Bosnian Croats.
Nevertheless, Plenkovic’s conservative party enjoys a slim majority over the Socialists in parliament and would likely win the vote on Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO bids.
The day had started on an optimistic note in Brussels. Stoltenberg said the military alliance was ready to seize a historic moment and move quickly to allow Finland and Sweden to join its ranks, after the two countries submitted their membership applications.
Official apps set a security countdown. Russia, whose war with Ukraine prompted them to join the military organization, has warned that it would not welcome such a move and may react.
“I warmly welcome Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg said. “All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment that we must seize.
“It’s a good day at a critical time for our security,” Stoltenberg said, beaming, as he stood alongside the two envoys, with the flags of NATO, Finland and Sweden in the back.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that the alliance stop expanding towards Russia’s borders, and several NATO allies, led by the United States and Britain, have signaled they are ready. to provide security support to Finland and Sweden should the Kremlin attempt to provoke or destabilize them during the time it takes to become full members.
Countries will only benefit from NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee – the part of the alliance’s founding treaty which promises that any attack on one member would be considered an attack on all – once the ratification process of accession concluded, probably within a few months.
A senior US defense official said the Pentagon has ongoing discussions with Sweden and Finland about their security needs to deter Russia as it moves toward NATO membership.
The official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist on Wednesday and they discussed the interim period.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private Pentagon discussions, said the U.S. military has worked closely with the Swedish and Finnish armed forces for years, including on several exercises, and that other exercises could be part of the additional security safeguards. .
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed their candidacies in a tweet and said “Putin’s appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent”. Germany, Italy, the Baltic States and the Czech Republic all spoke favorably of the candidates.
If Erdogan’s objections are overcome and membership talks go as planned, the two could soon become members. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to act quickly given the Russian threat hanging over the Nordic countries.
Public opinion in Finland and Sweden has shifted massively in favor of membership since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Finland and Sweden cooperate closely with NATO. They have functioning democracies, well-funded armed forces, and contribute to alliance military operations and air policing.
Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Lolita C. Baldor and Christopher Megerian in Washington, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine