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Stoltenberg: Madrid summit not a cut-off date for Finland’s, Sweden’s Nato accession

Finland, Sweden and Turkey will continue talks on Tuesday in Madrid.

Earlier in June, Ankara rejected a Nato initiative to hold trilateral talks with Finland and Sweden on their applications. Image: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

The June Nato summit in Madrid, attended by member states as well as key partner nations, is set to begin on Wednesday. President Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) are among those travelling to the summit from Finland.

Although Finland's hopes of celebrating its Nato accession in Madrid alongside Sweden were dampened when Turkey pushed the breaks on the countries' membership negotiations, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Swedish news agency TT on Monday that the Spain summit was not a cut-off date for the two Nordic countries' accession to the organization.

On Monday President Niinistö told reporters that Finland's advancement to Nato membership was looking brighter, despite Turkey's demands. The positive assessment came after several discussions between the Finnish President and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

On the same day Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson also revealed that she had had a productive conversation with Erdoğan.

Representatives of Finland, Sweden and Turkey met on Monday in Brussels, with Turkish President Erdoğan, Nato Secretary General Stoltenberg, Swedish Prime Minister Andersson and President Niinistö scheduled to hold a fresh round of talks in Spain on Tuesday before the summit begins.

Earlier in June, the Financial Times reported that Ankara had rejected a Nato initiative to hold trilateral talks with Finland and Sweden on their applications.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) expressed worry in June that Finland's membership process was in danger of being frozen if a solution to Turkish opposition was not found before the Madrid meeting. Both President Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Greens) had also estimated that negotiations between Finland, Sweden, and Turkey were unlikely to progress before the Madrid summit.

Will Finland's Nato membership be confirmed at the meeting?

"If things had proceeded as normal without the Turkish complications, [Finland’s] application would very likely have been processed by now, or at least would have made progress," Iro Särkkä, PhD in political science at the University of Helsinki, told Yle.

The summit may take on a surprise twist when Niinistö and Andersson meet with Erdoğan on Tuesday.

"It is not clear whether there will be any surprises. The discussion shows that at least they are trying to the very last minute," Särkkä said. "Negotiations have progressed, the direction is good, but no breakthrough has been achieved."

"A solution will be found when the United States joins the discussions," Särkkä estimated.

Can Finland break away from Sweden to become a member?

Turkish officials have justified blocking Sweden and Finland’s Nato membership talks by claiming, among other things, that the two countries support terrorism. Particularly Sweden has come under fire from Turkish officials.

According to Henrik Meinander,professor of history at the University of Helsinki, it is still very crucial for Finland that Sweden also join Nato. This can be best done if the two countries' applications are processed together.

The Nordic countries handed their respective applications to join Nato on 18 May.

Meinander estimated that although the Nato process may take time, both countries seem to have the patience to wait for a diplomatic solution.