The flag of Finland will be run up the flagpole at NATO headquarters on Tuesday, marking a history-making but bittersweet moment for the alliance — which had hoped to be doing the same thing with Sweden.

The ceremony will take place ahead of a regularly scheduled meeting of alliance foreign ministers. The gathering will focus on both the war in Ukraine and the deepening ties between Russia and China.

Foreign ministers or representatives of Australia, New Zealand and South Korea will be present, said NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg at a media availability Monday ahead of the meeting.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership at the same time almost a year ago, following Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine. But Turkey raised objections and held up both applications, which have to be ratified by every alliance country.

Ankara claimed that Sweden in particular was soft on groups the government of President Recep Erdoğan considers to be terrorist in nature.

Turkey relented on Finland and recently approved its membership.

Stoltenberg said Monday that Ankara and NATO headquarters still don’t see “eye-to-eye” on membership for Sweden and most alliance members believe Stockholm has lived up to undertakings made to strengthen its anti-terrorism laws.

“My position is that Sweden has delivered on the commitments they made when they signed the trilateral memorandum of understanding, together with Finland, Sweden and Turkey,” Stoltenberg said, referring to an agreement signed at last year’s NATO leaders summit.

“Sweden has implemented stronger legislation on the fight against terrorism. Mechanisms are in place to exchange more information, intelligence. Sweden has removed any restrictions on arms exports to Turkey.”

Stoltenberg said he’s confident Sweden will join in the near future and pointed out that Finland and Sweden are working together more closely in the fight against terrorism.

It might not be that simple, though.

Sweden and Kurdish nationalists

Ankara has accused Stockholm of being sympathetic to Kurdish nationalists and of harbouring individuals linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terror group by the EU, U.S. and U.K.

Pro-Kurdish groups have held demonstrations that included members of the Swedish parliament and have paraded the PKK flag around the Swedish capital, including in front of city hall. During a protest in January in Stockholm, an effigy of Erdogan was hung upside down on a lamppost and a Koran was torched.

Some have warned that further demonstrations of a similar nature this spring could make it impossible for Turkey to approve of Sweden joining NATO.

Stoltenberg said the allies are aware of the situation.

“Turkey has some legitimate security concerns and all allies should address them,” he said. “They also matter for us.”

Canada has already approved Sweden’s membership. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly is expected to attend the two-day NATO meeting of foreign ministers.



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