White House confident NATO can reach deal on Swedish, Finnish membership

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

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ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, May 17 (Reuters) - The Biden administration is confident NATO can reach consensus about bids by Sweden and Finland to join the organization, White house press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday, amid pushback from NATO member Turkey.

The remarks, made to reporters aboard Air Force One, echoed similar statements by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We're confident ... there will be a consensus as it relates to Turkey and Sweden and Finland's application," Jean-Pierre said. “We know there's a lot of support for Sweden and Finland to join NATO," she said, adding that there were "conversations happening."

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Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday that the country would formally apply for NATO membership in the next few days, but its accession process, and that of Finland, hit a snag when NATO member Turkey's president said he would not approve either bid.

At a news conference, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden and Finland should not bother sending delegations to Ankara to persuade Turkey to support their bids, citing their attitudes toward terrorist organizations.

"How can we trust them?" he said.

Sweden and Finland, which sought membership in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, need each of NATO's 30 members to approve their applications. The ratification process had been expected to take up to a year, though Turkey's objections have thrown that into doubt.

Blinken on Sunday said he had spoken to his Turkish counterpart on Ankara's concerns regarding Sweden and Finland's entry into NATO and that after Sunday's meeting of foreign ministers he was confident a consensus could be reached.

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Reporting by Jeff Mason and Alexandra Alper; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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