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NATO chief to meet with Finnish, Swedish, Turkish officials in Brussels

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will hold talks with officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey in Brussels next week to discuss Ankara’s reservations about the two Nordic countries’ bids to join the Western military alliance.

In a visit to Washington this week, Stoltenberg said he would convene officials from all three countries in Brussels “in the coming days … to ensure that we make progress on the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” adding that both countries were “ready to sit down and to address” Turkey’s concerns.

That meeting is set to take place in NATO’s Brussels headquarters next week, according to the Associated Press.

In the fallout from the Russian invasion, Sweden and Finland launched official applications to enter NATO, but Turkey has raised hurdles to their joining, pressuring them to cut off support of members of a minority militant group known as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the Ankara government considers terrorists.

In a phone conversation on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Stoltenberg that Sweden and Finland should say “very openly and clearly that they had given up supporting terrorism.” Erdoğan called his government’s security concerns “rightful and legitimate.”

Stoltenberg met with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Friday and said they discussed “the need to address Turkey’s concerns and move forward” with Helsinki’s and Stockholm’s applications.

Turkey’s gripes with the PKK and with the Kurds, the largest minority in the country, have also been a stumbling block in its own accession process to the EU. Accession reports by the European Commission have said that bans on Kurdish language books, closures of Kurdish-language media and dismissal of Kurdish academics were a “source of concern.” One recent report said the government’s “legitimate right” to fight terrorism must respect “human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

During his visit to Washington, Stoltenberg said he was “confident” that the countries would find “a way forward.”

“Turkey is an important ally, not least because of its strategic location,” the NATO chief said. “When they raise concerns, of course, we sit down and we look into how we can find the united way forward.”

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