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Blinken: Sweden, Finland will soon become NATO allies

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is flanked by Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom during a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, US, December 8, 2022. (Reuters photo)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Sweden and Finland will soon become NATO allies, despite Turkey's concerns about the two countries joining the Western military alliance.

Speaking at a press briefing following meetings at the US State Department with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts on Thursday, Blinken said that the two nations are already integrating into the work of the alliance, Reuters reported.

"This is not a bilateral issue between the United States and Turkey. And it's not going to turn into one," Blinken said.

He claimed that Finland and Sweden have had a productive process working with Turkey to address concerns and concrete steps have been taken.

"I have every expectation that both will formally become members soon,” he added.

Finland and Sweden both asked to join NATO this year in the wake of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, but Turkey opposed their request until a number of demands were met.

The two Nordic nations require the approval of all 30 NATO member states to join the alliance.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Finland hoped to finalize the process of NATO membership soon.

"We take the security concerns of all allies serious. Finland is a security provider whose membership will further strengthen the alliance as a whole."

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said the NATO accession process was "progressing well."

Last month, Russia warned that Sweden and Finland joining NATO could accelerate the militarization of the Arctic region.

Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia would be the only non-NATO member of the Arctic Council - an intergovernmental group that promotes cooperation in the Arctic.

"It cannot be ignored that once these countries join the alliance, all member states of the Arctic Council apart from Russia will be members of the North Atlantic bloc," she said.

"This could lead to increased militarization of the Arctic region but in turn, it would mean a significant increase in tensions over high latitude security risks."

However, she said that the Arctic Council does not deal with military security issues.

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