NATO

Ben Wallace: I will discuss Sweden's and Finland's NATO applications with Turkey

The Defence Secretary told a news conference in Oslo it was "important" to listen to Turkey.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said he would be speaking to the Turkish government next week about Sweden's and Finland's NATO applications.

Mr Wallace was in Norway for a training session of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), the British-led grouping made up of Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

He said that having all JEF's member nations part of NATO would send a message to Russia that its aggression in invading Ukraine has been "counterproductive".

Bjorn Arild Gram, Mr Wallace's Norwegian counterpart, said his country is considering further donations to Ukraine, after several batches of weapons, including heavy artillery, had already been sent.

Mr Wallace added that fighting Ukrainian forces are "exhausted" and that "we need to do more" to help them, not only by supplying weapons but also by providing training.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last month, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The countries' applications have faced unexpected opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it deems is Swedish support of Kurdish militants and by a previous decision to withdraw arms export licences to Turkey.

On Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden had taken important steps to meet Turkey's demands for approving Stockholm's NATO membership application.

In May, the NATO secretary-general said that Sweden and Finland's applications to join the alliance would be fast-tracked.

Watch: In May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden and Finland's applications to join NATO would be fast-tracked.

JEF meeting

The Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) nations discussed how Russia's invasion of Ukraine has impacted European security and how the JEF might contribute to longer-term capacity building and training across Europe.

They also rehearsed JEF's joint response activity through a table-top exercise, demonstrating the nations' ability to co-operate in times of crisis, including how JEF and NATO would work together in such a scenario.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "I was delighted to meet with my nine fellow defence counterparts from the Joint Expeditionary Force to deepen our relations and to support Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO."

After the meeting, the ministers issued a joint statement to strongly welcome Sweden and Finland's applications to join NATO.

Cover image: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited soldiers in Finland during Exercise Arrow 22, where British troops were partnering with Joint Expeditionary Force allies (Picture: MOD).