- Just two days after agreeing to lift deal-breaking objections to Sweden and Finland’s Nato accession, Turkey’s president has warned that Ankara could still block the process if the two countries fail to fully meet his expectations.
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the close of the alliance’s summit in Madrid that the 10-article agreement with the Nordic pair was a victory for Ankara and addressed all its “sensitivities”.
- He particularly stressed the satisfying of Turkey’s demand for Sweden and Finland to extradite terror suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.
- But Erdoğan added that if the two Nordic countries renege on their promises, Turkey’s parliament could refuse to ratify the deal reached on Tuesday. Nato accession must be formally approved by all 30 member states, which gives each a blocking right.
- Politico – Gabriel Gavin / With Turkey’s economy in crisis, Erdogan picks fights abroad
Financial Times – Marton Dunai / North Macedonia signals acceptance of plan to unlock EU membership talks
- North Macedonia’s government has accepted a French proposal aimed at unblocking the country’s path to EU membership by compromising with Bulgaria over bilateral tensions.
- Prime minister Dimitar Kovačevski said in a statement that ideas suggested by France, which has held the presidency of the EU for the past six months, were “the basis for opening a broad consultative process” in North Macedonia.
- French president Emmanuel Macron said he believed “a compromise solution” had been achieved, without giving details. “This solution brings security . . . to all,” he told a news conference at Nato’s summit in Madrid.
- Bulgaria, which had previously held a veto on the start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia, ended its opposition in a parliamentary vote last week.
- Carnegie – Maxim Samorukov / Is Bulgaria drifting back into Russia’s orbit?
Financial Times – Max Seddon, Derek Brower and Roman Olearchyk / Russian forces withdraw from Snake Island
- Russia withdrew forces from the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island in what the defence ministry described as a “gesture of goodwill” to help restore Ukrainian grain shipments, but which Kyiv claimed was a humiliating retreat.
- The ministry on Thursday said its troops had “finished fulfilling their tasks” and “demonstrated that Russia is not blocking the UN’s efforts to organise a humanitarian corridor to export agricultural goods from Ukraine”.
- Kyiv rejected this, saying it had driven Russian forces from Snake Island with an artillery bombardment. Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the victory showed that allies “should not be wary of providing Ukraine with more heavy weapons”.
- Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, posted a picture on Twitter of plumes of smoke billowing from the island and hailed the “great job” of the armed forces.
- Foreign Affairs – Mark Cancian / How to break Russia’s Black Sea blockade
Politico – Hans von der Burchard / Germany’s Scholz urges free transit for Russian goods to Kaliningrad
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday sought to cool tensions in the Baltic region by urging Lithuania and the EU to lift restrictions on freight transport from Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave, arguing that EU sanctions against Moscow should not apply there.
- Tensions have been running high in recent weeks over Russian rail transport to Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.
- The crisis started when the EU implemented new sanctions against Moscow in mid-June, under which the bloc banned imports of Russian steel and ferrous materials. The train line supplying goods from Russia to Kaliningrad passes through Lithuania, so customs agents started stopping freight trains for checks. This, in turn, led to Moscow threatening “practical” retaliatory action if the EU didn’t unblock metal goods stuck in transit.
- Speaking at a press conference at the NATO summit in Madrid, Scholz said that it was “a matter for the European Union to set the necessary framework and rules” for freight transport from Russia to its enclave.
- Reuters / EU and Russia agree they need a plan for Kaliningrad, says Polish PM
Our longer reads for the weekend:
- Financial Times – Gillian Tett / How do you persuade Republicans to save the planet?
- The Atlantic – Anne Applebaum / The reason Liz Cheney is narrating the January 6 story
- Project Syndicate – Carl Bildt / Europe’s fate and Ukraine’s survival
- Project Syndicate – Mark Leonard / The European war project