NATO, Türkiye agree on supporting Ukraine to end Russia's 'war of aggression': Stoltenberg

NATO chief praises Ankara's role during Ukraine conflict, says Russia's Putin can end war tomorrow if he wants.

NATO, Türkiye agree on supporting Ukraine to end Russia's 'war of aggression': Stoltenberg

NATO and Türkiye agree on the “importance of supporting Ukraine to end this war of aggression by Russia,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg, who arrived in Türkiye on a three-day visit on Thursday, praised Ankara’s role during the ongoing conflict.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Saturday, a day after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, he said: “I commended Erdogan and Türkiye for what they have done, both in providing support to Ukraine, but also in facilitating the deal enabling the export of grain from Ukraine.”

“This is important for the whole world, especially the poor world, and it helps reduce food prices. Türkiye has played a key role in making that possible,” he said.

Stoltenberg reiterated that the Ukraine conflict is a “war of choice.”

“This is Russia, President Vladimir Putin invading another country … We have to understand that President Putin started this war. This is a war of choice, and he can end this war tomorrow,” he said.

Emphasizing Ukraine’s “right to defend themselves” and reclaim its territory, Stoltenberg said: “If President Putin and Russia stops fighting, then we’ll have peace. If President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy and Ukraine stops fighting, then Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent and sovereign nation.”

He said the international community has the “responsibility to support Ukraine to enable them to defend themselves.”

“Of course, I believe that I hope that this war also at some stage will end at the negotiating table. But we also know that what Ukraine can achieve around that table in negotiations is absolutely dependent on the strength on the battlefield,” he added.

“So if we want Ukraine to prevail as a sovereign independent nation, then we need to provide military support to Ukraine to strengthen their hand and to maximize the likelihood for an outcome in all negotiations which is acceptable for Ukraine.”

Stoltenberg also criticized Russia’s “reckless” and “dangerous nuclear rhetoric.”

“Russia must understand that nuclear war cannot be won and … will have severe consequences for Russia,” he stressed.

“The probability for any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine remains low, but at the same time, the consequences are so big and so devastating. So we need to take the risk seriously,” said the NATO chief.

Stoltenberg’s Türkiye visit came after Russia announced last week that it was pulling out of the grain deal, accusing Ukraine of attacking its Black Sea fleet with drones.

However, Türkiye and Russia announced Moscow's return to the deal's implementation on Wednesday, following mediation from Ankara and the UN.

Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed the agreement on July 22 in Istanbul to resume Black Sea grain exports, which were paused after the war began in February. A Joint Coordination Center with officials from the three countries and the UN was set up in Istanbul to oversee the shipments.

Finland, Sweden NATO accession

Stoltenberg welcomed Türkiye’s decision to extend an invitation to Finland and Sweden to join the alliance at the Madrid Summit on June 29.

“Türkiye, Finland and Sweden agreed to a joint memorandum and now we have seen that Finland and Sweden have implemented their strengthened legislation on counter terrorism,” Stoltenberg said.

He also praised the decision by Finland and Sweden to lift all restrictions on arms and weapons export to Türkiye.

“They're also committed very clearly to continuing to implement because they have formed a permanent mechanism structure where Türkiye and Finland will meet to exchange information, work together on counterterrorism or many other things,” Stoltenberg said.

“I think the time has come to finalize the accession process and ratify the accession protocols which are signed in June,” the NATO chief added.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in June, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine.

However, Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the two countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.

Sweden and Finland struck a deal with Türkiye in June, and Erdogan has warned Türkiye will not give the nod to their memberships until Ankara's concerns are addressed.

The trilateral agreement stipulates that Sweden and Finland will not provide support to the YPG/PYD, the PKK's Syrian offshoot, and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup attempt in Türkiye. The deal also said Ankara extends full support to Sweden and Finland against threats to their national security.

The Nordic countries have both agreed to address Ankara's pending deportation or extradition requests for terror suspects.

All 30 standing NATO allies need to approve any expansion of the bloc.