(Update: adds decision to speed up Ukraine’s membership, adds Stoltenberg, Zelenskyy remarks)
Vilnius, Jul 11 (EFE).- Nato leaders agreed Tuesday to make it easier for Ukraine to become a member of the alliance, secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday at the end of the first day of a summit in Vilnius.
Allied leaders agreed to eliminate the so-called Membership Action Plan for Ukraine, which will not need to demonstrate that it has carried out the military, economic and political reforms required to join.
“This will change Ukraine’s membership path from a two-step process to a one-step process,” Stoltenberg told a press conference.
Alliance members “will issue an invitation for Ukraine to join Nato when allies agree and conditions are met,” he added.
In addition, the leaders agreed to set up the Nato-Ukraine Council, a forum that will cement the political relationship between the two sides where they can meet “as equals.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is attending the summit in person, had slammed the lack of a clear timeline for his country’s accession to the defensive alliance ahead of his arrival.
“It’s unprecedented and absurd when (a) time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine’s membership,” Zelesnkyy said on Twitter, questioning the alliance’s “readiness” to make Ukraine a member.
The Nato chief said Tuesday’s decision demonstrated “a strong, united and positive message for Ukraine” as well as a “positive path forward for membership”.
Addressing a large crowd in central Vilnius, Zelenskyy welcomed the developments, saying “Nato will give Ukraine security. Ukraine will make Nato stronger!”
At the start of the summit in the Lithuanian capital, Nato nations had announced more weapons deliveries and military support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces.
Stoltenberg said Nato would be sending “a clear message (…) that we stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Stoltenberg said he expected Nato nations to “reiterate their commitment to provide military support to Ukraine to help them liberate more land.”
In that vein, French president Emmanuel Macron announced upon his arrival in Vilnius that France would be sending medium range Scalp missiles to help Ukraine defend its territory.
“It is important for us today to send a message of support to Ukraine, of unity on the part of Nato and of determination that Russia cannot win this war,” Macron said.
Germany has also announced a new military aid package worth almost 700 million euro for the Ukrainian armed forces including, among others, air defense systems, tanks and artillery.
On the eve of the summit, Turkey announced it would back Sweden’s accession to the alliance, having threatened to veto the move over Stockholm’s handling of Kurdish militants wanted on terrorism charges in Turkey, among other issues.
Stoltenberg welcomed the “historic” development, saying it is “good for Sweden, it is good for Türkiye, it is good for the whole Nato alliance, and not least it is good for the Baltic region.”
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau, reminded reporters that the Canadian parliament was the first to ratify Sweden’s accession to Nato and said he was “very pleased” with Turkey’s decision to unblock that process.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz also stressed the importance of Turkey as a partner upon his arrival today and assured that he will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the summit.