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Turkey warns Finland, Sweden must ‘take steps’ before NATO approval

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Turkey will not formally approve Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO until the two countries take the necessary “steps,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg on Friday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic nations of providing safe haven to outlawed Kurdish militants it considers “terrorists” and has delayed ratifying their NATO membership despite an agreement in June.

“President Erdoğan noted that the steps to be taken by Sweden and Finland would determine how fast the approval process… would go and when it would be concluded,” the Turkish presidency said.

Erdoğan and Stoltenberg held a meeting in İstanbul that was closed to the media.

Finland and Sweden abandoned their decades-long military non-alignment and scrambled to become NATO members in May after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Erdoğan, however, threatened to block their applications and demanded concessions, leading to a June agreement between Turkey, Finland, and Sweden that included provisions on extraditions and intelligence sharing.

Sweden’s new prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, will travel to Ankara on Tuesday to meet with Erdoğan, in a trip that Stockholm hopes will lead to Turkey’s approval.

Stoltenberg “welcomed the major, concrete steps already taken by both countries to put the memorandum into practice and stressed that their accession will make NATO stronger,” the alliance said in a statement on Friday.

On Thursday, during a press conference with Turkey’s foreign minister, NATO’s secretary general said Finland and Sweden’s accession was important “to send a clear message to Russia.”

All 30 member states of NATO except Turkey and Hungary have ratified the accession of Sweden and Finland.

The admission of new countries into the alliance requires the approval of all members.

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