Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is giving up his week-long blockade of Sweden and Finland. The accession talks for NATO’s northern expansion can then begin.

Turkey has given up its opposition to the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO. “I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday evening after a meeting with Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and his Turkish colleague Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This also sends a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that NATO’s door is open.

Turkey, Sweden and Finland have signed a memorandum of understanding addressing Turkish reservations. Among other things, it is about arms exports and the fight against terrorism. “Tomorrow the heads of state and government of the allies will decide to invite Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” said Stoltenberg.

Niinistö said Turkey will support the invitation to the two Nordic countries to join the alliance during the NATO summit in Madrid. The joint memorandum underscores the commitment of Finland, Sweden and Turkey to ensure their full support against threats to each other’s security, the Finnish President said in a statement. “The fact that we are becoming a NATO ally will reinforce this commitment.”

Admission applied for in May

Finland and Sweden are not yet NATO members, but they are close partners in the defense alliance. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered intense debates about such membership in the two militarily non-aligned countries. On May 18, they each applied for admission to NATO – in the hope of being able to go through the procedure for accession as quickly as possible.

However, Turkey promptly put a stop to this by being the only NATO member to block the beginning of the admission process. Since decisions in NATO are made according to the principle of consensus and thus not against the resistance of allies, the process has stalled ever since. This was an unexpected setback for the alliance, after all it has been trying to show unity and unity since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

“Today we met, discussed and found a good solution,” said Stoltenberg on Tuesday after the more than three-hour meeting. The NATO accession of the two Nordic countries will change the entire security situation in the Baltic Sea region. “This will strengthen NATO and also strengthen Finland and Sweden.” Stoltenberg welcomed the fact that Finland and Sweden want to make arms deliveries to Turkey possible. He is also confident that Turkey, Finland and Sweden will stick to the commitments made in the memorandum.

Ankara demanded the extradition of several people

Ankara had justified its blockade with the alleged Swedish and Finnish support of “terrorist organizations” such as the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK, the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG and the Gülen movement – in Stockholm and Helsinki these allegations are rejected. Ankara has demanded the extradition of several people suspected of being terrorists in Turkey. According to Tuesday’s agreement, extradition should always be in line with the European extradition treaty.

Erdogan was also concerned with lifting restrictions on arms exports to Turkey. NATO partners such as Germany, but also other EU countries such as Sweden, partially stopped arms deliveries to Turkey in protest against a Turkish offensive against the YPG in northern Syria in 2019. Turkey sees this as an affront, as it sees the deployment in Syria as a necessary step in the fight against terrorism.

It’s a historic step

For Finland and Sweden, the NATO issue is a historic step, after all, both countries have traditionally been non-aligned in military terms. Both have long viewed Russia as a threat. In the case of Finland, this also has to do with the fact that the country has a border with Russia that is more than 1,300 kilometers long. No other EU country borders the giant empire over such a long distance.

Originally there was hope that Finland and Sweden could become official NATO members this year. The dispute with Turkey has raised doubts as to whether this loose schedule will hold up. After the completion of the admission process within NATO, the accession protocols must be ratified by the parliaments in all 30 states, which diplomats estimate should be completed within six to eight months.