Turkey will not approve Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to join NATO until they properly address Ankara’s concerns about their alleged support to terrorist organizations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, promising not to repeat “past mistakes”.
“For as long as Tayyip Erdogan is the head of the Republic of Turkey, we can definitely not say ‘yes’ to countries supporting terrorism entering NATO,” the Turkish leader told reporters as he returned from a trip to Azerbaijan, according to state media. reports on Sunday.
Delegations from Sweden and Finland met their Turkish counterparts in Ankara for talks last week, following a joint application by the Nordic nations to join the US-led military alliance. 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 extremists.
“They are not honest or sincere,” Erdogan said of the results of the talks so far. “They do not take the necessary measures, they still allow the terrorists to walk the streets of Stockholm freely and provide security for them with their police.”
“We can not repeat the same mistakes we made in the past against these countries that protect and feed these terrorists,” he added. He referred to a separate long-running feud with Athens over Cyprus, recalling how Ankara in 1980 “allowed Greece to return” after its partial withdrawal from NATO.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previously acknowledged that Finland and Sweden are unlikely to become members of NATO unless they meet Turkey’s requirements. “No country has suffered as much from terrorist attacks as Turkey,” Stoltenberg said on Thursday, adding that Turkey is an “important ally” and when an ally is concerned, it should be discussed and the problem resolved.
Turkey demands that Sweden and Finland lift arms export restrictions on Turkey, and to 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, Ankara wants the same term to be applied to the YPG and the PYD, the Kurdish military and the political groups in Syria, respectively.
The two Nordic states both decided to break with their history of neutrality on 15 May, citing Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine that motivated them to join NATO. Their candidacy for membership was welcomed by Washington and its European NATO allies, but Turkey and Croatia have threatened to block applications unless their national security concerns are addressed.
Moscow has called Sweden’s and Finland’s applications are a “serious mistake with long-term consequences” but have stated that their NATO efforts were still less worrying than Ukraine’s, whose potential territorial claims could pose “major risks to the whole continent” if accepted in bloc.
Turkey has taken a neutral stance in the conflict, maintained relations with both Ukraine and Russia and refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow, while striving to take on the role of mediator in the conflict. The Turkish president has announced talks with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, “to encourage the two parties to maintain channels of dialogue and diplomacy.”