THE HAGUE (Netherlands) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, along with a few leaders from the alliance countries, are meeting in The Netherlands to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine. They also plan to attend a summit in Spain later in the month.
The informal gathering will be held at the official residence of Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister, at The Hague. It is co-hosted at her Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen. Other leaders present were the Romanian president and the prime ministers from Portugal, Poland, Portugal, Latvia, and Belgium.
The talks will likely include applications from Sweden and Finland to join NATO, which are being held against the backdrop of war at the alliance's eastern border. After decades of military non-alignment, both countries applied for NATO membership in May. After Russia invaded Ukraine, February 24, that all changed.
Recep Tayyip Erdan, the Turkish President, has vetoed their entry unless they change their policies regarding supporting Kurdish militants Ankara considers terrorists.
Stoltenberg stated Monday that he was happy to see the Swedish government confirm its willingness to address Turkey's concerns in order for them to assume the obligations of future NATO membership.
This meeting is the latest round in international diplomacy prior to the June 29-30 NATO summit at Madrid.
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins stated Tuesday to a local radio station that he hopes and expects that Russia will strengthen its eastern flank, especially in the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which all border Russia. Dinner in The Hague will discuss this topic.
This issue is important to the governments of Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius. They have long desired a permanent presence NATO troops on their territory following Russia's military maneuvers there in the past few years.
Karins, in an interview with Latvian Radio that was cited by Baltic News Service, stressed the importance of his NATO colleagues having a similar understanding about the need to strengthen security within the Baltic region.
The Hague meeting follows a meeting Friday in Bucharest between nine NATO countries on the alliance's eastern side. Some leaders called for NATO to increase protection in light Russia's prolonged war against Ukraine.
After Friday's meeting, Klaus Iohannis, Romanian President, stated that NATO must be able to respond to all threats. "Alliance must be able defend every inch of its territory."
The Black Sea is a strategic battleground for the war in Ukraine and borders three NATO members, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria.
This report was contributed by Jari Tanner, Helsinki, and Monika Scislowska, Warsaw, Poland.
Follow AP's coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine