Ready to discuss Turkey’s concerns: Finnish President Niinisto

Finnish President says he takes ‘terrorism seriously’, Swedish PM willing to ‘sort out issues’ with Ankara.

May 20, 2022 12:38 am | Updated 08:51 am IST - Washington DC

U.S. President Joe Biden, centre, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö at the White House on Thursday, May 19, 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden, centre, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö at the White House on Thursday, May 19, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said his country was open to discussing Turkey’s concerns on its application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), as U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Mr. Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House following their countries’ application to join the western military alliance. The two countries formally applied to join the organisation in Brussels on Wednesday, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24.

“As NATO allies, we will commit to Turkey’s security, just as Turkey will commit to our security. We take terrorism seriously,” Mr. Niinistö said, during remarks at a gathering with Mr. Biden and Ms. Andersson in the White House Rose Garden.

“We are open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and constructive manner. These discussions have already taken place and they will continue in the next days,” he added.

Ms. Andresson said that her country was in discussion with all NATO members – including Turkey – to “sort out any issues”.

Turkey has objected to Finland and Sweden’s application to NATO, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accusing the countries of harbouring terrorists of the Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK). Turkey has also said that the countries host followers of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, an Erdogan opponent who is based in the U.S.

“The decision [ to apply for NATO membership] was made with an overwhelming parliamentary majority and it also enjoys huge, strong popular support,” Mr. Niinistö  said.

“After 200 years of military non alignment, Sweden has chosen a new path,” Ms. Andersson said.

“Russia’s full scale aggression against a sovereign and democratic neighbour — that was a watershed moment for Sweden,” she said, adding that her government had decided that the safety of the Swedish people would be best protected through NATO.

Mr. Biden called the day “momentous” and said the U.S. offered its “strong support” for the countries’ accession to NATO, adding that it was the sovereign right of every country to make its own security decisions – a reference to Russia’s longstanding objections to the expansion of NATO, although on Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no “immediate threat” to Russia from these two countries joining the alliance.

“No members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation,” Mr. Biden said on Monday. The President said he was submitting a report on NATO accession for the two countries to the U.S. Congress, with the aim of getting the Congress’s approval. All 30 members of NATO have to approve Sweden and Finland’s accession for it to take effect.

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