‘Way through’ for Nordic states to join Nato despite Turkey's concerns, says UK’s Wallace

Turkish president is currently opposed to Finland and Sweden joining Nato

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace called Turkey 'an incredibly important member of Nato'. PA
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UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said there is a “way through” for Finland and Sweden to join Nato despite Turkey’s concerns.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is against the Nordic countries joining the military alliance and has said he will oppose their bids.

Turkey is an incredibly important member of Nato and indeed a strong contributor,” Mr Wallace told the House of Commons.

“We should always remember that Nato covers a very wide frontier from the high north, the Arctic in Norway, all the way through to the Black Sea and to Turkey, and it is very important — one of the oldest members of Nato — that we understand in this environment what Turkey is concerned about and address them in order to make sure that the 30 nations come together to support and accept Finland and Sweden."

Mr Wallace added that he would soon be speaking with his Turkish counterpart on Mr Erdogan's concerns about groups related to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) — which Turkey has labelled a terrorist organisation — and whether Nato members are doing enough to confront the issue.

“I think there is a way through, I think we will get there in the end and it is very important that we listen to all members and their concerns about the process, and we will certainly be listening to Turkey,” he said.

The Turkish president’s objection to the Nordic nations’ Nato membership stems from a grievance about Sweden and Finland’s supposed support of the PKK.

Turkey’s conflict with the PKK has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

Mr Wallace also suggested to MPs that Sweden and Finland will eventually succeed in their bid to join Nato.

“I totally agree that when Britain says it wants to support them, we want them to succeed, we will help them succeed and I believe they will succeed,” Mr Wallace said.

“Having applied, we need to demonstrate that nations such as Sweden and Finland are welcome into that alliance because people choose Nato, but Nato also recognises the values those two countries stand for and, indeed, the professionalism of their armed forces.”

As MPs took part in a general debate on Nato, shadow defence secretary John Healey said the government needed to think again about its military spending commitments and rewrite its Integrated Review of defence and national security.

“It confirms threats to Britain are increasing, yet it cuts the army by a further 10,000 troops,” he said.

“It makes no mention of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan or a Russian invasion of Ukraine. And I just say to the defence secretary: all democracies must respond to the newly realised threats to national and European security.

“That’s why we are arguing he and the government must rewrite the flaws in the Integrated Review, must review defence spending, must reform defence procurement, must rethink those army cuts and must reinvigorate UK leadership in Nato.”

Conservative Julian Lewis of New Forest East made a similar call, saying that “at least” 3 per cent of GDP should be spent on defence.

“It is a matter of priority. And what has happened to Ukraine shows where our priorities must lie.”

Updated: May 19, 2022, 10:39 PM