Printed on Fri Aug 19 2022 2:58:42 PM

Erdoğan threatens to block Swedish & Finnish NATO bids

International desk

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday, May 16th, reiterated Turkey’s objections and said the country will not approve of Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO, as he criticized them for failing to take a clear stance against terrorist organizations.

Erdoğan’s remarks came after the Nordic countries officially announced their intention to apply for membership in the military alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey last week said it would not view its applications positively, mainly citing its history of support to terrorist organizations, including the PKK and its Syrian wing.

Any membership bid must be unanimously approved by NATO’s 30 members.

“Neither of these countries has a clear, open attitude toward terrorist organizations,” Erdoğan said at a joint news conference with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune in the capital Ankara. “How can we trust them?”

“First of all, we cannot say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey, on joining NATO which is a security organization,” Erdoğan noted.

Sweden and Finland had imposed arms export embargoes on Turkey after its military operation seeking to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates of the YPG in 2019.

Erdoğan described Sweden as an “incubation center for terrorist organizations,” saying some members of its parliament supported the PKK, designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Monday that Sweden’s government has formally decided to apply for NATO membership, a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto confirmed that Helsinki will also apply for membership.

The Swedish foreign office said earlier on Monday that senior representatives of Sweden and Finland plan to travel to Turkey for talks to address Ankara’s objections.

However, Erdoğan said they “should not bother” coming if they hope to convince Ankara into relaxing its objections to their membership.

“They say they will come to Turkey on Monday. Are they coming to convince us? Excuse me but they should not tire themselves,” he noted.

Erdoğan said NATO would become “a place where representatives of terrorist organizations are concentrated” if the two countries joined.

The president said Sweden and Finland rejected to extradite people with links to the PKK and Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the terrorist group behind the defeated coup of 2016 in Turkey.

The Justice Ministry on Monday said the two countries had not granted approval to Turkey’s request for the extradition of 33 people with links to the PKK and the FETÖ.

Turkey said it wanted the Nordic countries to halt their support to terrorist groups present on their territory, and lift bans on sales of some weapons to Turkey.

Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said on Saturday that Turkey has not shut the door on Sweden and Finland joining NATO but wants negotiations and a clampdown on what it sees as terrorist activities.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Sunday that talks with Swedish and Finnish counterparts in Berlin had been helpful. The two countries had made suggestions to respond to Ankara’s concerns, which Turkey would consider, while he had provided the proof that terrorists were present on their territory, he said.

He singled out Sweden in particular, saying the PKK had held meetings in Stockholm over the weekend.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has swung political and public opinion in Finland and neighboring Sweden in favor of NATO membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

Sweden and Finland were both neutral throughout the Cold War, and their decision to join NATO would be one of the biggest changes to Europe’s security architecture for decades, reflecting a sweeping shift in public opinion in the Nordic region since Russia invaded its neighbor Ukraine in February.

Moscow has responded to the prospect of the Nordic states joining NATO by threatening retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical measures.”


Read More: Finland to apply ‘without delay’ for NATO membership

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