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Turkey has agreed to withdraw its opposition to NATO membership applications filed by Finland and Sweden following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said the breakthrough came after he and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on June 28 ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid and signed a joint memorandum “to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security.”

The memorandum “confirms that [Turkey] will support this week at the Madrid summit the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO,” Niinisto said. said on Twitter.

“Concrete steps for our NATO membership will be agreed by NATO allies over the next two days, but that decision is now imminent,” Niinisto said in a press release.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Turkish Presidency confirmed the deal in separate statements.

The deal “sends a clear message to President Putin: NATO’s door is open,” Stoltenberg told a news conference, referring to the Russian president, whose ardent opposition to Ukraine’s desire to join NATO served as the pretext for its decision to invade Ukraine in February. .

The invasion raised fears in Finland and Sweden over Russian aggression, prompting them to seek to join the Western alliance, and once they are formally accepted as members, Finland’s long border with Russia means that the border between Russia and NATO will expand dramatically.

Stoltenberg said the 30 NATO members would now invite Finland and Sweden to join NATO and they would become official “guests”. Parliaments in NATO countries must ratify the decision, a process that could take up to a year.

Last month, Finland and Sweden decided to give up their non-aligned status and asked to join the military alliance, but their offers were withheld by Turkey, which accused the two nations, in particular the Sweden, to provide a safe haven for Kurdish militants who were leading an insurgency against the Turkish state.

The issue threatened to cloud the summit and its attempt to proclaim unity among NATO members in the face of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sweden will step up work on Turkey’s requests for the extradition of suspected Kurdish activists, Stoltenberg said. Sweden and Finland will also change their laws to toughen their approach to Kurdish militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and lift their restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.

The Turkish presidency statement said the agreement meant “full cooperation with Turkey in the fight against the PKK and its affiliates”.

He also said that Sweden and Finland “show solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter: “Fantastic news as we kick off the NATO summit. Joining Sweden and Finland will make our brilliant alliance stronger and more secure.”

The NATO summit is expected to be one of the most important Western alliance summits in recent years amid Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said earlier that the three-day summit will agree a new assistance package for Ukraine in areas “like secure communications, anti-drone systems and fuel”.

Stoltenberg said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a “fundamental shift” in NATO’s approach to defence, and member states will need to increase military spending.

The meeting will map out a plan for the alliance “in a more dangerous and unpredictable world”, he said.

Strengthening defenses against Russia and supporting Ukraine top the agenda of the meeting, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is to address virtually.

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The United States and Spain issued a joint statement ahead of the summit, condemning Russia for invading Ukraine. The statement, which came after US President Joe Biden met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, said the invasion “fundamentally altered the global strategic environment”.

The statement emphasized the two countries’ defense partnership through NATO and said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “poses the most direct threat to transatlantic security and stability. world since the end of the cold war”.

The summit will also change language dating back to 2010 describing Russia as a strategic partner.

“That will not be the case in the strategic concept that we will agree on in Madrid,” Stoltenberg said.

“I expect allies to make it clear that Russia poses a direct threat to our security, to our values, to the rules-based international order.”

Stoltenberg announced June 27 that NATO would increase its high-readiness forces to “well over 300,000” in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. The NATO Response Force currently numbers around 40,000 troops.

The summit will also bring together leaders from countries that are not currently members of NATO, including South Korea and Japan, as observers.

Stoltenberg said on June 28 that NATO does not see China as an adversary but is concerned about Beijing’s ever-closer ties with Moscow.

He noted that China will soon be the world’s largest economy and that NATO must engage with Beijing on issues such as climate change.

“But we are disappointed that China has been unable to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that China is spreading many false narratives about NATO, the West, and also that the China and Russia are closer now than they have ever been before,” he added.

With reports from Reuters, AP and Time