Ankara said it would block Sweden and Finland from joining the bloc because of their asylum registers
NATO must deal with Ankara’s objections to Sweden’s and Finland’s potential accession to the alliance, said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The two Nordic countries have decided to apply for membership in NATO, but their offer has been rejected by Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his country would not support Sweden’s and Finland’s membership offers, as they were allegedly “hosting terrorists”.
On Monday, he said that Stockholm and Helsinki should not even bother to send delegations to Ankara to discuss the issue.
Stoltenberg tweeted on Monday night: “Turkey is a valued ally and all security issues must be addressed. We must stand together in this historic moment.” He had previously expressed hope that the Turkish opposition would not delay accession.
Stoltenberg met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during an informal meeting with NATO foreign ministers. Cavusoglu reiterated his government’s objections during the two-day event in Berlin.
Sweden and Finland have previously granted political asylum to people from Turkey, especially ethnic Kurds, who are fleeing internal conflicts. Turkey says some of these people are terrorists and criticized the nations for hosting them.
In addition to addressing this issue, Sweden and Finland must lift restrictions on trade with Turkey in order to gain support for their NATO bid, Cavusoglu said on Monday.
Sweden’s Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist said on Monday that he was preparing a delegation of diplomats to go to Turkey to try to resolve the issue. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said last weekend that he was “surprised” by Ankara’s obstacles, but was prepared to discuss the situation with Erdogan.
The two European nations decided to break with their history of neutrality and join NATO after Russia began its military operation in Ukraine. Moscow has said that Sweden and Finland will jeopardize their security by joining a military bloc that Russia considers a hostile power that does Washington’s bidding.
Unlike many other US allies, Turkey has refused to retaliate against Russia due to the Ukraine crisis with economic sanctions, and has played the role of mediator between Moscow and Kyiv.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, which were first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s final recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. The German- and French-mediated protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kyiv insists that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims that it planned to retake the two republics by force.