Erdogan warns that Turkey can still block Nordic NATO Drive

MADRID – Turkish President Recep Erdogan told Sweden and Finland on Thursday that he could still block their efforts to join NATO if they fail to implement a new accession agreement with Ankara.

Erdogan issued his straightforward warning at the end of a NATO summit in which the US-led alliance formally invited the to join the 30-nation bloc.

The two nations put down their history of military freedom of alliance and announced plans to join NATO in response to ’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their bid was on track for rapid approval until Erdogan expressed concern in May.

He accused the two of providing a refuge for banned Kurdish militants and promoting “terrorism”.

Erdogan also demanded that they lift arms embargoes imposed in response to ’s military invasion of Syria in 2019.

A 10-point memorandum signed by the three sides alongside the NATO summit on Tuesday seemed to address many of Erdogan’s concerns.

Erdogan raised his objections and then held a warm meeting with US President , which was followed by a promise to sell new fighter jets to Turkey.

Nevertheless, Erdogan told reporters at an impromptu press conference held at the end of the summit that the memorandum did not mean that Turkey would automatically approve the two countries’ membership.

Applications from new countries must be approved by all members and ratified by their respective parliaments.

Erdogan warned that the future behavior of Sweden and Finland would determine whether he forwarded their application to the Turkish parliament.

“If they fulfill their duties, we will send it to Parliament. If they are not fulfilled, it is out of the question,” he said.

A high-ranking Turkish diplomat in Washington said the ratification process could come no earlier than the end of September and could wait until 2023, with parliament taking a break from Friday.

A Western diplomatic source in the corridors of the NATO summit accused Erdogan of engaging in “blackmail”.

“73 terrorists”

Erdogan delivered his message a day after Turkey said it would request the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden.

The 33 were accused of being either banned Kurdish militants or members of a group led by a US-based preacher that Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup.

But Erdogan appeared on Thursday by noting that Sweden had “promised” Turkey to extradite “73 terrorists”.

He did not explain when Sweden made this promise or left other details.

Officials in said they did not understand Erdogan’s reference but said that Sweden strictly adhered to the .

“In Sweden, Swedish law is applied by independent courts,” said Minister of Justice Morgan Johansson in a statement to AFP.

“Swedish citizens are not extradited. Non-Swedish citizens can be extradited at the request of other countries, but only if it is compatible with Swedish law and the European Convention, says Johansson.

Finnish President Niinisto said on Wednesday that Erdogan seemed to be referring to cases that had already been dealt with by officials and courts.

– I would guess that all these cases have been resolved in Finland. There are decisions that are made, and those decisions are made in part by our courts, Niinisto told reporters in Madrid.

“I see no reason to bring them up again.”

Most of Turkey’s demands and previous negotiations have involved Sweden due to its stronger ties with the Kurdish diaspora.

Sweden has no official ethnicity statistics but is believed to have 100,000 living in the nation with 10 million people.

The warned that Turkey’s “loose and often aggressive framing” of the term “terrorist” could lead to problems in the coming months.

“The complication arises from a definition of terrorism in Turkish law that goes beyond criminalizing participation in violent acts and violates fundamental freedom of expression,” the US-based institute said in a report.


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