Brussels (The Times Groupe)- NATO’s chief on Monday said he hoped to “make progress” on Finland and Sweden’s membership bids.
“We also aim to make progress on Finland and Sweden’s historic applications for NATO membership, while ensuring the security concerns of all allies are addressed. I spoke with (Turkish) President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan on Saturday, and I will meet with the (Swedish) Prime Minister (Magdalena) Andersson later today,” Jens Stoltenberg told a pre-summit press conference in Brussels.
Stoltenberg said NATO should “take into account the concerns expressed by allies, such as Turkey in this case. And that’s why we have intensified the dialogue with our ally, Finland, Sweden over the last weeks.”
The NATO secretary-general announced that Finnish and Swedish leaders will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Madrid on Tuesday. A meeting of senior officials from all three countries will precede the four-way meeting at NATO headquarters on Monday, which will also include Stoltenberg.
“Our NATO summit in Madrid will be transformative with many important decisions, including on the new strategic concept for a new security reality,” he said.
According to Stoltenberg, NATO will “transform the NATO Response Force and increase the number of our high-readiness forces to more than 300,000.”
NATO leaders will meet in Madrid to discuss the largest military deployment since the end of the Cold War.
Talks will focus on NATO’s response to the war in Ukraine, as well as Finnish and Swedish petitions to join the 30-member alliance.
In response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last month.
The Turkish government, a long-time member of the alliance, has expressed concerns about the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.
During its 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU – has killed over 40,000 people.