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Turkey drops opposition to NATO expansion 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attend a signing ceremony of a memorandum on the Nordic countries’ NATO in Madrid, Spain on June 28, 2022 [TUR Presidency/ Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Anadolu Agency]
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attend a signing ceremony of a memorandum on the Nordic countries’ NATO in Madrid, Spain on June 28, 2022 [TUR Presidency/ Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Anadolu Agency]

After weeks of talks, Turkey has dropped its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO in a deal that will see the two Nordic states address Ankara's security concerns to pave the way for the alliance to expand. The leaders of the three countries signed a memorandum yesterday at a NATO summit in Madrid confirming Turkey's support for the membership bids by Helsinki and Stockholm.

The trilateral deal was reached between Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland and the Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, in the Spanish capital.

"I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO," said Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the organisation. "Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey's concerns, including around arms exports and the fight against terrorism."

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The major sticking point for Ankara was the alleged ties between the Nordic states and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its various offshoots. Turkey, along with many of its allies within NATO, including the US and the EU, have designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

The PKK has waged a rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people. Ankara says that Sweden and Finland support the PKK, an allegation which complicated their potential membership of NATO. Stoltenberg's remarks suggests that a resolution to Turkey's concerns was found.

Hailing the deal as a "very good agreement," Andersson rejected claims that she had conceded too much to Erdogan in order to persuade him to drop his veto. This was a crucial point, because new NATO members requires the approval of every existing member state.

The Swedish prime minister is reported as saying that she had shown the Turkish leader changes in Sweden's terrorism legislation set to come into force next month. Though no specifics were mentioned she said, "Of course, we will continue our fight against terrorism and as NATO members also do so with closer cooperation with Turkey."

Erdogan applauded the deal. "Turkey has made significant gains in the fight against terrorist organisations," he pointed out. "Turkey got what it wanted."

The text of the memorandum signed by all three leaders says that Finland and Sweden will "extend their full support" to Turkey in matters of national security.

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