(Update-1630ET): A big breakthrough is being reported at the end of the first day of the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain as it appears Turkey has budged on the Scandinavian membership issue related the Ukraine war. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has hailed that a deal has been reached to proceed with admitting Sweden and Finland into the alliance, citing that Turkey's concerns which held up the application process have been resolved. Turkey, Sweden and Finland reportedly signed a "joint memorandum" after coming to agreement:
"Our joint memorandum underscores the commitment of Finland, Sweden and Turkey to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security," Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in a statement. "Us becoming NATO allies will further strengthen this commitment."
Importantly, the PKK has been proscribed a 'terrorist organization' according to the agreement, which appears to be fulfilment of the biggest ask being demanded of Ankara.
A Biden administration statement called Turkey's apparent switch to being supportive of the Nordic countries' admission into NATO a "powerful shot in the arm" among allies. Crucially, the breakthrough comes hours after a phone call between Presidents Joe Biden and Erdogan, and ahead of the two NATO allies meeting face-to-face in Madrid. According to more from the Finnish president:
Niinistö said that the “concrete steps” for Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership process would be agreed to over the remaining days of the summit.
"I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference shortly thereafter.
A US administration statement noted that it didn't offer Turkey concessions over Finland and Sweden's NATO bids. So far it's looking like Finland and Sweden offered steps in Turkey's direction regarding to Kurdish PPK issue;
Niinisto said the breakthrough on Tuesday came after the three countries signed a joint memorandum "to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security."
The full text of the memorandum:
“We are now working actively on the next steps in the accession process of both Finland and Sweden. And addressing Turkey’s security concerns, including in the fight against terrorism," Stoltenberg previously said in a media interview.
According to Stoltenberg's latest words, the memorandum includes Sweden and Finland agreeing to "crack down on PKK activities and enter into an agreement with Turkey on extradition."
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Looming heavily over the Tuesday through Thursday NATO summit in Madrid will be Turkey's vehement rejection of Finland and Sweden's membership bids, but it now appears President Joe Biden will use the opportunity of his trip to Europe, where's he's currently attending the G7 in Germany, to intervene with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan personally.
"US President Joe Biden will meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at this week's NATO summit in Madrid where the alliance will discuss the fallout of Russia's invasion of Ukraine," the White House announced in a statement on Tuesday. The statement underscored the summit will take "historic decisions to strengthen the alliance's collective defense and security."
This after the Turkish side said that the two leaders held a Tuesday morning phone call ahead of the planned meeting on the sidelines of the Madrid-hosted summit.
Going into the week's annual NATO event, where the Ukraine war will be top of the agenda, US officials said they don't expected Turkey's concerns over Sweden and Finland's membership bids to be allayed anytime soon. But the White House has stated that at this point it hopes to "boost" the Scandinavian countries' candidacies.
On Monday national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the administration will seek to "create as much positive momentum" as possible among allies.
"I’m not sitting here today suggesting that all issues will be resolved by Madrid, but we’re going to try and resolve as many of them as possible so that Madrid gives a boost to their candidacies, even if there remains some concerns on the part of Turkey that need to be worked out," Sullivan said while briefing reporters at the G7 summit in Germany.
One European diplomatic official told CNN that there's hope of "last moment" Turkish concessions in previewing the anticipated Biden-Erdogan meeting: "My best projection based on what I've seen is that they will run this to the wire at Madrid. They also always prefer if they're going to make concessions to do it at the leader level, they believe that enhances that status," the unnamed official said. "It is Turkey's standard operating procedure not to give concessions till the last possible moment. And that last possible moment is usually defined as a bilateral with the US president, followed by a leaders meeting."
Ankara has emphasized that despite pressure from Western allies, it doesn't at all see the Madrid summit as a "deadline". This as Turkish media has confirmed Erdogan will attend talks with the leaders of Sweden and Finland just ahead of the NATO meeting this week.
Erdogan's government has been consistent in denouncing Swedish and Finish "support" for Kurdish "terrorist" groups, namely the outlawed PKK and its affiliates, for example in northern Syria. Erdogan has gone so far as to demand the Nordic countries extradite wanted members of the organization.
While Ankara is pledging that it will not back down, there's growing anticipation that it will take nothing less than significant concessions from Biden visa-a-vis Turkey in order for Ankara to budge on the NATO membership questions. This could come in a variety of forms - from Washington readmitting Turkey to the F-35 stealth program, to the US pressing the EU to drop a 2019 arms embargo that stemmed from Erdogan's anti-Kurdish military operations in northern Syria. But the most pressing and timely matter from Ankara's point of view remains a stalled deal to acquire new F-16 fighter jets, which was also lately a source of soaring tensions with Greece.
According to Reuters:
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he would meet U.S. President Joe Biden at a NATO leaders' summit this week and discuss what he said was Washington's "stalling" of Ankara's request to purchase new F-16 fighter jets.
"Speaking before departing for the summit in Madrid, Erdogan said he had spoken to Biden on Tuesday morning and that Biden asked to meet him on later the same day or Wednesday," the report continued. The meeting could come as early as Tuesday.