Canada could be among the first countries to ratify Sweden, Finland membership in NATO, says Joly
Foreign affairs minister says Canadian ships standing ready to help transport grain from Ukraine
Now that Sweden and Finland have signalled their desire to join NATO, Canada can be one of the first member countries to ratify their membership in the trans-Atlantic military alliance, Canada's foreign affairs minister said Monday.
Once a country has completed accession discussions with the North Atlantic Council of the 30 member countries and membership has been approved, each member state has to ratify the new member.
Speaking to reporters by phone from Brussels after attending meetings in Germany and Belgium with her counterparts from the G7, NATO and European Union countries, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she has laid the groundwork for ratification.
"Under the Canadian system the government, the executive branch, has jurisdiction and there's no need to go through Parliament [to secure ratification]," Joly told reporters.
"That being said, it's such an important issue, I've reached out already to my opposition critics from the other parties to seek their support and they all agree. So in Canada, it's a non-partisan issue."
Joly said that during her meetings with other foreign ministers, Sweden and Finland's membership in the alliance was a key topic of discussion.
"Canada is not only in favour of their accession, I would say also a quick accession of these countries, because we believe that they are a net gain for the alliance," she said. "We have common shared values, we also participate in many military exercises together and definitely Sweden and Finland have strong armies."
Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Finland and Sweden and signed mutual security agreements with both countries pledging to come to their aid if they come under attack.
Joly said that Canada will stick to supporting the U.K. and the U.S. "when they're offering security guarantees to Sweden and Finland," rather than offering similar guarantees itself.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised concerns about Finland and Sweden joining NATO. He cited their stance on Kurdish militants — Turkey classifies them as terrorists.
Erdogan didn't threaten outright to veto membership and officials and analysts say they believe he won't stand in their way. No other country has raised serious objections to Finland and Sweden joining, either in public at home or at NATO headquarters in Brussels, officials say.
Joly would not discuss her message to her Turkish counterpart on Monday but said she believes there are ways to address Turkey's concerns.
Earlier this month, a UN food agency official told reporters from Geneva that nearly 25 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain that could be shipped out of the country is being held up by Russia's blockade of Ukraine's ports.
That move has prompted warnings from the World Food Program that developing nations in Africa and the Middle East that rely on Ukrainian grain may go hungry.
Freeing Ukraine's wheat
Joly said Canada is working with allies to find alternative routes to ship the grain.
"Many routes are being discussed by European authorities, American authorities and Canadian authorities and, of course, we're in conversation with different jurisdictions from Poland to Romania, the Baltic states and ... Turkey," Joly said.
Grain needs to be shipped out of Ukraine in order to empty the country's silos and other storage facilities in time for the next harvest, Joly said, and Canadian ships are standing by to help.
"We need to make sure to free Ukrainian wheat and make sure that they are sent to the Middle East and Africa," she said.
"Canada is one of the biggest wheat exporters in the world. We have expertise in the sector and we're working right now not only with the Ukrainian government, but also with the European Union and some specific countries, including Romania, to find a solution."
Joly said she'll be in New York next week for meetings at the UN to discuss global food security.
With files from The Canadian Press, Associated Press