NATO leaders are to formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance Wednesday after a last-minute agreement was reached with Turkey to allow the Nordic countries to join.
The 30 NATO members are meeting in the Spanish capital this week where they are expected to adapt adapt their military stance towards Russia as the war in Ukraine enters its fifth month.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the deal between Ankara, Helsinki and Stockholm was struck during a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
Erdogan’s office said Finland and Sweden had agreed “to cooperate fully with Turkey in its fight” against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and other groups Ankara considers terrorist organisations.
Andersson rejected claims that she had given too much ground to Erdoğan in order to persuade him to drop his veto.
“Taking the next step toward a full NATO membership is of course important for Sweden and Finland. But it’s also a very important step for Nato, because our countries will be security providers within NATO,” she told AFP.
“And of course, we will continue our fight against terrorism and as NATO members also do so with closer cooperation with Turkey.”
Sweden and Finland had historically declined to seek NATO membership, partly because of mixed public opinion and caution around their security relationship with Russia.
However that dramatically changed after Russia launched its unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February.
The two countries will now be able to attend the Nato summit on Wednesday and Thursday as guests. NATO is expected to quickly ratify their membership.
Meanwhile German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said NATO allies would continue to supply Ukraine with weapons in its war against Russia for “as long as necessary”.
“It is good that the countries that are gathered here but many others, too, make their contributions so Ukraine can defend itself - by providing financial means, humanitarian aid but also by providing the weapons that Ukraine urgently needs,” Scholz told journalists in Madrid.
Earlier Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of being a "terrorist state" at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Tuesday.
Zelenskiy pushed the Security Council to expel Moscow from the UN and to create a tribunal to investigate actions of the Russian military in Ukraine.
However, Russia is a council veto power and can shield itself from any such action.
Moscow accused Zelenskiy of using his address to the UN - done via video link - as a "remote PR campaign" to solicit more Western weapons.