NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (C) attends a news conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Ann Linde following the signature of the NATO accession protocols for Finland and Sweden. Photo courtesy of NATO
July 5 (UPI) -- NATO ambassadors signed accession protocols for Finland and Sweden at NATO headquarters Tuesday, taking another step in expanding the European military alliance.
The signing started the ratification process for the Scandinavian countries and was witnessed by Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.
"This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden, for NATO, and for our shared security," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. "With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger and our people will be even safer, as we face the biggest security crisis in decades."
Initially, Turkey balked at Sweden and Finland's application based on accusations that the countries had harbored members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, a militant group that seeks independence from Turkey. Turkey considers the group a terrorist organization.
Stoltenberg announced last week he facilitated a signing of a joint security pact by foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland that addressed Turkey's concerns. That led to Turkey dropping its objections.
President Joe Biden issued a statement last week in his support for the countries joining NATO and Turkey dropping its objection.
"Finland and Sweden are strong democracies with highly capable militaries," Biden said in the statement. "Their membership will strengthen NATO's collective security and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance."