Stoltenberg tells Turkey to ratify Sweden, Finland NATO membership
The NATO chief says he believes the time is now for quake-hit Turkey to ratify Finland and Sweden's NATO membership.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Turkey on Thursday it was time to finally ratify Sweden and Finland's bids to join the Western military alliance.
Stoltenberg arrived in Ankara 10 days after Turkey was hit by a massive earthquake that has claimed nearly 40,000 lives across the country's southeast and parts of Syria.
"In your time of need, NATO stands with Turkey," Stoltenberg said.
Despite the catastrophe, the NATO chief had the nerve to stress the urgency of Ankara dropping its resistance to the Nordic neighbors' bids to join the alliance.
"I continue to believe that the time is now to ratify both Finland and Sweden," Stoltenberg said after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
After the start of the Ukraine war, Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and applied to join the US-led military alliance.
Turkey and Hungary remain the only members of the 30-nation alliance that have not ratified the two bids by votes in parliament.
All 30 states must approve a new country's membership. The Hungarian legislature is expected to approve both bids by March.
On its part, Turkey has signaled it is ready to receive Finland into the alliance -- but not Sweden.
"We could evaluate Finland's NATO membership process separately from Sweden," Cavusoglu indicated on Thursday, noting that "Turkey's position on the membership of the two countries has been clear and unambiguous from the beginning."
Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan's main complaint has been with Sweden's refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Ankara links to Kurdish groups and a 2016 coup attempt.
Rallies attacking the Turkish leadership in Stockholm and the burning of the holy Quran further deepened the rift and raised tensions between Turkey and Sweden.
Stoltenberg pointed out that Finland and Sweden "can be ratified now," however, "the main issue is not that they are ratified together. The main issue is that they are ratified as soon as possible."
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