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Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is in Washington today alongside Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. The two will visit US President Joe Biden to discuss the war in Ukraine and Turkey’s opposition to their Nato applications, which were handed in yesterday.

Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden
Ukrainians protesting outside the White House on Thursday praised Sweden and Finland for applying to join the Nato alliance. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

“The meeting is an important security policy signal,” Andersson wrote on her Instagram account from Washington DC.

The two Nordic leaders boarded their flight to Washington shortly after their Nato ambassadors applied to join the alliance on Wednesday morning.

At the meeting in the White House today, the delicate security situation in both Finland and Sweden will be discussed.

The US has given security assurances to the two countries during the gap between their applications to join Nato and the accession as members, as have Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. 

“Biden Finland and Sweden are longtime, stalwart partners of the United States. By joining Nato, they will further strengthen our defence cooperation and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance,” Biden said in his statement. 

The US would maintain its “robust exercise activity and presence” in the Baltic Sea region, he added.

“While their applications for Nato membership are being considered, the United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.” 

Another issue on the agenda will be how to respond to Turkey’s moves to block the process until Sweden and Finland meet demands to, among other things, extradite people in Sweden the country claims are linked to terror organisations and end  its embargo on weapons sales to Sweden. 

The US, as the most powerful country in the alliance, could be able to put pressure on Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to back down, or offer other concessions, perhaps over its wish to buy US F-16 fighter jets.  

Andersson spoke to Biden on the phone on Friday and met him in Brussels at the end of March, but this is her first visit to Washington as prime minister. 

Final approval for Sweden and Finland’s bid could take up to a year, and Russia is expected to react to the two countries joining Nato in some way.

Sweden and Finland’s decision to join the Nato alliance was applauded by Ukrainians taking part in a demonstration outside the White House.

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NATO

Turkey drops objections to Sweden joining Nato

Turkey has dropped its objections to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, paving the way for the two Nordic nations to join the North Atlantic defence alliance.

Turkey drops objections to Sweden joining Nato

“We have reached an agreement between Sweden, Turkey and Finland which means that Turkey now accepts that we will be granted invitee status in Nato. That’s important, as it will improve Sweden’s security,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said after a meeting in Madrid with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It was a very long meeting and Sauli Niinistö and I could describe all the measures we in Sweden have taken regarding terrorism legislation in recent years, and now on July 1st we are tightening that legislation significantly,” Andersson added.

The process of joining Nato requires the approval of all 30 existing members. Turkey had set out a string of demands, including the extradition of what it claims are Kurdish terrorists living in Sweden and a relaxation of Sweden’s ban on selling arms to Turkey. 

In a press release, Nato said that the foreign ministers of Turkey, Sweden and Finland had all signed a trilateral memorandum (find copy here) which addressed “Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns”. 

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Nato leaders would as a result now be able to issue a formal invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. 

“I’m pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join Nato. Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports,
and the fight against terrorism,” he said. 

As aspiring Nato members, he added, Finland and Sweden would not give support to the PYD, the Democratic Union Party of Syria, which runs the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, and would not support the Gülen movement. 

The agreement commits Sweden and Finland to not supporting the PYD, but only classes the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Turkey has previously insisted on describing the PKK/PYD as a single entity. 

The deal also covers the export of Swedish weapons to Turkey. Sweden has not exported weapons to Turkey in recent years, a decision Turkey interprets as an arms embargo. 

“Turkey, Finland and Sweden confirm that there are no national arms embargoes between them. Sweden is changing its national regulatory framework for arms exports in relation to Nato allies,” the document reads. “In future, defence exports from Finland and Sweden will be conducted in accordance with Alliance solidarity and the letter and spirit of Article 3 of the Washington Treaty.”

“If we become Nato members, of course this will have repercussions on how we interpret Swedish weapons exports legislation,” Andersson conceded at the press conference.  

According to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper, Säpo, Sweden’s security police, has drawn up a list of “at least ten” people living in Sweden with links to the Kurdish PKK terror organisation, who can be extradited to Turkey. 

According to the newspaper’s government source, two people with PKK links have already been extradited to Turkey this year, and more could follow.

However, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö stressed to reporters at the press conference that the trilateral deal does not name any individuals who Turkey wants extradited. Instead the agreement commits Sweden and Finland to handling extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly”. 

Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, sent out a celebratory tweet shortly after the announcement. 

She said that the two countries would then start formal accession talks in Brussels next week after which Sweden would officially become a Nato invitee. 

READ ALSO: The next five steps to a Swedish Nato membership

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