Nato chief urges Turkey to ratify Nordics membership, boost defense spending
Brussels, Feb 15 (EFE).- Nato’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday urged Turkey to ratify the entry of both Sweden and Finland into the military alliance.
The two Nordic countries abandoned decades of military neutrality and applied for Nato membership last year in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
But Ankara, which has not objected to Finland joining, has said it will veto Sweden’s accession over Stockholm’s refusal to extradite Kurdish separatists wanted in Turkey on terror charges.
Turkey suspended negotiations with Sweden over its accession after Swedish authorities allowed a recent demonstration by a far-right politician in Stockholm at which he burned a copy of the Koran.
“I urged Türkiye to ratify both Finland and Sweden together already last Fall. So that’s my position and that position has not changed,” Stoltenberg told a press conference at the conclusion of a two-day defense ministers’ summit in Brussels.
But, he said, Ankara has “different assessments” about Finland’s and Sweden’s accession ratification, pointing out that “that is a Turkish decision.”
Hungary and Turkey are the only two Nato members that have not yet ratified the Nordics’ accession.
“I’ve been actually pushing hard for Swedish and Finnish membership and I am absolutely confident that both Finland and Sweden will become a member,” Stoltenberg said, adding that he would address the issue with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on a trip to Turkey which begins on Thursday.
Stoltenberg will also visit areas affected by the massive Feb. 6 earthquakes.
The Nato chief also said allies had addressed ways to boost their industrial capacity and “replenish stockpiles of armaments and munitions” in order to help “Ukraine push back against Russia’s aggression,” an effort which Stoltenberg warned was “consuming an enormous quantity of Allied ammunition, and depleting our stockpiles.”
In that regard, Stoltenberg said the ministers had addressed increasing defense expenditure, pointing out that more countries were now spending “at least 2% of their GDP” on defense.
Last year was the eighth in a row that saw increased defense spending by European nations and Canada, a trend which he said was expected to continue this year.
“But more needs to be done,” Stoltenberg said, “because we live in a more dangerous world” with a “full fledged war going on in Europe”, “the persistent threat of terrorism” and security challenges being posed by China.
“So it is obvious that we need to spend more (…) and I think we should move from regarding the 2% as a ceiling, to regard the 2% of GDP as a floor and minimum,” Stoltenberg said. EFE