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UK would back fast-track for Ukraine to join NATO, foreign secretary says

The UK would back a fast-track for Ukraine to join NATO, the foreign secretary has signalled.

France also appears to favour the idea, according to Paris’s top diplomat.

How to advance Ukraine’s membership to NATO even as its forces fight Russia’s invasion will be one of the key decisions expected to be made by alliance leaders at a major summit next month in the Baltic state of Lithuania.

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Any nation wanting to join NATO is meant to complete a plan of action to ensure its armed forces meet certain standards and are properly funded.

But this requirement was waived when Finland and Sweden asked to join last year and could be dropped again.

James Cleverly, the British foreign secretary, said all allies recognised that the Ukrainian armed forces are already adapting to meet the alliance’s entry standards.

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“We have seen Ukraine evolve and evolve incredibly quickly,” he told journalists at a press conference on the sidelines of a conference in London on Ukrainian reconstruction.

He said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had told allies at a recent informal meeting of foreign ministers in Norway that “many of the requirements” of the so-called membership action plan (MAP) were already being delivered.

“The reform of their armed forces is happening whilst engaged in conflict,” Mr Cleverly said.

“I think the UK’s position would be very, very supportive if we moved on from the membership action plan, recognising that the offer to both Finland and Sweden didn’t require that and the Ukrainians have demonstrated their commitments to reform – the military reform required for NATO membership – through their actions on the battlefield.

“I think all NATO allies recognise that.”

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Catherine Colonna, France’s foreign minister, indicated her country was thinking along the same lines.

“I can see a possibility that the MAP is not any longer a stage of that route, that roadmap to accession,” she said, speaking in English to reports at the Ukraine conference.

Speaking in French, she said a lot of time had passed since NATO first spoke about an “open door” policy towards aspirations by Ukraine and Georgia to join back in 2008.

“Perhaps we won’t require the “Membership Action Plan” mechanism – perhaps not, I say, perhaps not – which was planned in 2008,” she said.

“We are a long way from 2008. Time has passed, the situation is quite different.”


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