Finnish Foreign Minister is optimistic that “sooner or later” Finland and Sweden will become NATO members

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

(CNN) – Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has expressed optimism that “sooner or later Finland and Sweden will be members of NATO” and said talks with the Turkish government will continue then. that Ankara threatens to prevent the two nations from joining the defensive alliance.

In an interview with CNN in Washington, DC on Friday, Haavisto said he expected the topic of Finland joining NATO and overcoming Turkey’s current opposition to come up again. in his conversations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his meeting later in the day, adding he was “pretty confident” that other NATO countries had also spoken with Turkey.

At a press conference following the meeting between the top US and Finnish diplomats, Blinken said the US was directly engaged with Turkey “but the focus is on the work that Finland, Sweden and Turkey are working together to address the concerns.”

“I won’t go into details, but there is an ongoing and very active conversation between Finland, Sweden and Turkey which we will support in any way possible. I suspect NATO will too.” , said the head of the American diplomacy.

Delegations from Finland and Sweden – both of which formally applied for NATO membership last week – visited Turkey earlier this week for talks on NATO membership. All current NATO members must approve new members.

Haavisto, who did not attend the talks, called it a “good meeting” and said it lasted five hours. Haavisto said there are European and Finnish laws and policies in place that guide Finland’s actions on Turkey’s main demands – the designation of the PKK as a terrorist organization, the lifting of arms export controls. , the extradition of Kurdish activists whom Turkey considers to be terrorists. However, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said following the delegation’s visit that “if Turkey’s security concerns are not met with concrete steps, the process cannot move forward.”

Haavisto said “there was an agreement to continue these discussions”, but that a next round of talks has not yet been arranged.

“From our point of view, the timing is essential, because we are of course looking forward to the NATO summit in Madrid”, which is at the end of June, “and we hope that during the NATO summit, the new members would be welcomed, at least, and NATO’s ‘open door policy’ would be upheld, but of course it is up to each member state to influence the process as well,” he said.

Finland’s and Sweden’s decisions to apply for NATO were a major change caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Although Moscow suggested taking “retaliatory measures” in response, Haavisto told CNN they had seen no incidents so far, reiterating “we don’t expect anything but we are ready for anything.” He said Finland was satisfied with the countries’ statements regarding security commitments in the current gray area between their NATO candidacy and their membership.

“Out of the question” to ease sanctions against Russia to unblock Ukrainian ports

Haavisto said he expects energy and food security issues to also be addressed when he meets with Blinken on Friday.

“Our concern is also the blockade of maritime transport on the Black Sea coast, because this is related to the transport and trade of grain, etc. And it is not good if Ukraine is a landlocked country like that. is the case now,” he told CNN.

The foreign minister said it was “out of the question” to ease Russian sanctions as a way to unblock the ports.

“I think the international community should really call for a safe transport route for agricultural products out of Ukraine, because it is essential for food security and food prices in the world,” said- he told CNN.

Haavisto said it was difficult to predict how the war in Ukraine, now in its fourth month, might end, but said Finland and Europe are focused on “helping Ukraine as much as possible so that whenever talks take place, they negotiate from the strongest possible position.”

“It is very difficult to see when there will be business as usual between Russia and Europe,” he added, noting that Russia must be investigated for violations of the human rights and war crimes she has committed in Ukraine.

Asked if there could be business as usual if Putin remained in power, Haavisto said it was “hard to say”.

“There are those who say that without regime change you can’t do anything, but also regime change is something you can’t do from the outside, that’s of course something that Russia and the Russians cannot do,” he said. Haavisto also noted “we also have to be prepared for riskier scenarios, that when people talk about regime change, you don’t know if the regime is changing for better or for worse,” like a military takeover.

“And of course it’s a country with nuclear weapons and chemical weapons and so on,” he added, saying it was the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis that the use of tactical nuclear weapons was mentioned.

He said in Finland that “creates a lot of concern”.

“We have a strong traditional army and a strong traditional army, but with this type of threat, you cannot survive alone against this type of threat,” he said.

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