Turkey says its demands are “concrete”, and the Nordic states must accept them in order to join the alliance
Following talks in Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters that his government would not allow Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance until Turkey’s “concrete” security concerns regarding terrorism and sanctions are met. Kalin added that Ankara will not rush to reach an agreement before NATO’s next meeting.
Delegations from Sweden and Finland met with their Turkish counterparts in Ankara for five hours of talks following their joint applications to join the NATO military alliance last week. Their accession requires the unanimous consent of all 30 member states, and Turkey has threatened to block the process unless the two countries strike at groups they consider terrorists.
“Without facing Turkey’s security problems, any process of NATO expansion can not continue.” Kalin told a press conference after the talks. “NATO is a security organization” he explained, adding that this means that the alliance should ensure it “Member States’ security concerns are addressed equally and fairly.”
Turkey has demanded that Sweden and Finland lift arms export restrictions on Turkey, and that they extradite people affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement (FETO). While Sweden and Finland both regard the PKK as a terrorist organization, Turkey has also demanded that they apply the same designation to the YPG and the PYD, the Kurdish military and the political groups in Syria, respectively.
Kalin said that the Turkish side was pressuring Sweden to shut down its domestic PKK sympathizers and their funding and media activities. Sweden in particular has been singled out by Turkey, with Ankara accusatory Stockholm to arm the Kurds with anti-tank weapons, which are used in the Kurds’ ongoing border conflict with Turkey.
Swedish and Finnish officials will now return to their capitals to discuss Turkey’s demands, which Kalin described as “concrete.” The membership process for the two Nordic states can only continue “in a way that will address Turkey’s security concerns,” he said.
NATO leaders will meet in Madrid, Spain, at the end of next month, but Kalin stated that Turkey is “not under time pressure” to reach an agreement with Sweden and Finland until then.
READ MORE: Turkey demands concessions from NATO applicants
Sweden and Finland both cited Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, which motivated them to join the US-led NATO alliance. Their offer of membership has been warmly received in Washington and by NATO European leaders, in addition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, who have threatened to block their applications unless the alliance addresses the alleged legal persecution of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Moscow has called the two countries’ NATO applications a “serious mistake with long lasting consequences.” Nevertheless, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that Russia sees the two countries’ NATO aspirations as less worrying than Ukraine’s, where potential territorial disputes. “would have posed enormous risks to the entire continent.”