Biden hosts Swedish, Finnish leaders

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WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden Thursday hosted Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the White House amid Ankara’s opposition of Nordic nations joining NATO.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan dug in over his rejection of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, casting a shadow over a White House visit on Thursday by the leaders of the Nordic nations who applied this week to join the US-led alliance.
Finland and Sweden say they have been spurred into joining NATO by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reversing generations of military non-alignment to bring about the biggest shakeup in European security for decades.
“This is a historic event, a watershed moment in European security. Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world’s most powerful defensive alliance,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
But Turkey has surprised its allies by objecting to the move, accusing the two Nordic states of harboring Kurdish militants. “We will continue our policy in a determined way. We have told allies that we will say no to Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership,” Erdogan said in an interview with students late on Wednesday. “NATO is a security alliance and we cannot accept terrorists to be in it.” –Agencies
Washington has so far played down the Turkish objections, saying it expects the issues to be resolved.
The past week has seen Russia secure its biggest victory since the invasion began in February, with Kyiv announcing it had ordered its garrison in a steelworks in Mariupol to stand down, after a nearly three month siege of the city.
The ultimate outcome of the bloodiest battle in Europe for decades has remained publicly unresolved, with no confirmation of the fate of hundreds of Ukrainian defenders. Moscow said on Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered so far, including 771 in the past 24 hours.
Ukraine, which says it aims to secure a prisoner swap, has declined to say how many were inside the plant or comment on the fate of the rest since confirming that just over 250 had surrendered in the initial hours after it ordered them to yield.