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‘This is a good day’: Sweden and Finland submit bids to join Nato

Sweden and Finland's ambassadors to Nato handed over their countries' applications to join the security alliance at its Brussels headquarters at 8am on Wednesday.

'This is a good day': Sweden and Finland submit bids to join Nato
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg shakes hands with Axel Wernhoff, Sweden's Nato ambassador, after the application was handed in. Photo: Screen Grab

Sweden’s ambassador to Nato, Axel Wernhoff, together with his Finnish colleague Klaus Korhonen, crossed the road from their offices to submit the two countries’ indication letters, both signed yesterday by their respective foreign ministers, at Nato’s headquarters. 

They were met by Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who thanked the two countries for what he called “a historic step”. 

“This is a good day at a critical moment for our security,” he said. “You have both made your choice after thorough democratic processes and I warmly welcome the requests by both Sweden and Finland to join Nato. You are our closest partners and your membership in Nato would increase our shared security.”  

Nato’s ambassadors met at 10am to discuss the two countries applications.  Until a few days ago, Nato was expected to take less than a day to decide to formally invite the two countries to join from the time the letters were submitted. 

But according to Sweden’s TT newswire, the attempts of Turkey to block the two countries may delay this until early next week. 

Turkey, which like all member states has a veto over new members, has accused Sweden and Finland of acting as safe
havens for armed Kurdish groups opposed to Ankara. 

In a veiled reference to Turkey’s recent threat to block Sweden and Finland’s application, Stoltenberg expressed Nato’s willingness to work through any outstanding issues. 

“The security issues of all allies have to be taken into account and we are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions,” he said. 

He also pointed to the promises of security support for Sweden during the transition phase, that have come in recent days from member states, adding that Nato was “already vigilant in the Baltic Sea region”. Nato and its allies would continue, he said, “to adapt as necessary.”  

Stoltenberg has been working from home after testing positive for Covid-19 last week. 

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SWEDEN AND TURKEY

Sweden extradites first Turk since striking Nato deal

Sweden's government said on Thursday that it would hand over a Turkish citizen convicted of credit card fraud to Ankara, the first known extradition since Sweden struck a deal with Turkey promising to deal with extraditions "expeditiously and thoroughly".

Sweden extradites first Turk since striking Nato deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block both Sweden and Finland from NATO membership unless they meet several demands, including the extradition of people Ankara considers “terrorists”.

Erdogan accuses the two countries of being havens for Kurdish militants, specifically highlighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The man facing extradition was identified in Swedish court documents as Okan Kale, and was convicted in Turkey of credit card fraud in 2013 and 2016.

He sought asylum in Sweden in 2011 but his request was denied. He was granted refugee status in Italy in 2014. Kale’s name features on a list published in Turkish media of people that Ankara wants extradited from Sweden.

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The justice ministry would however not comment on whether the man was on a list drawn up by Turkey. It noted that Ankara had sought his extradition in 2021 — long before the Stockholm’s application to join the North Atlantic alliance in May.

“This is a regular, routine matter,” justice ministry spokeswoman Angelica Vallgren told AFP. “The extradition request was received last year.”

Kale has been held in Swedish custody since December 2021.

In an agreement signed by Sweden and Finland at a NATO summit in Madrid in late June, the two countries agreed to examine Turkish extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly”.

Erdogan said Sweden had made a “promise” to extradite “73 terrorists”.

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