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NATO Chief Says Turkey's Concerns On Bids By Sweden, Finland 'Legitimate'.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (right) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg shake hands at a press conference during talks at the presidential summer residence Kultaranta, in Naantali, Finland, on June 12.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (right) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg shake hands at a press conference during talks at the presidential summer residence Kultaranta, in Naantali, Finland, on June 12.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said security concerns raised by Turkey in its opposition to alliance membership bids by Sweden and Finland are "legitimate" and said talks with Ankara on the matter would continue without a specific deadline.

"These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism. It's about weapons exports," Stoltenberg told a news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during a visit to his summer residence in the city of Naantali.

The two Nordic states are seeking to join the Western defense alliance in a break from their decades-long nonalignment policies amid the backdrop of Russia's increased aggressiveness in the region, including its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

But Turkey has opposed the bids, accusing the two countries of supporting and harboring Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara has classified as terrorists, particularly the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a long struggle against the Turkish government.

"We have to remember and understand that no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkiye," Stoltenberg said, using the Turkish pronunciation of the country's name.

He said talks with Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would continue on the matter.

"The summit in Madrid was never a deadline," Stoltenberg said, referring to a NATO meeting in the Spanish city scheduled for June 28-30.

Earlier this month, Stoltenberg said he hoped to quickly reach a deal on the membership bids, which require unanimous agreement among NATO members. Most other alliance members have expressed support for acceptance of Sweden and Finland.

"My intention is to have this in place before the NATO summit" in Madrid, Stoltenberg said during a visit to Washington on June 1.

"Finland and Sweden have made it clear that they are ready to sit down and to address the concerns expressed by Turkey," Stoltenberg said.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa

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