Finland and Sweden must meet Ankara’s conditions before becoming members, President Erdogan warned
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden and Finland on Monday that Ankara could still “freeze” its NATO membership, they fall from last month’s agreement, in which the two Nordic countries promised to take specific measures to overcome Turkey’s objections.
“I want to reiterate that we will freeze the process if these countries do not take the necessary steps to meet our conditions,” Erdogan told reporters. “Our position on this issue is very clear. The rest is up to them.”
“Sweden in particular does not have a good picture on this issue,” he added.
Ankara had blocked Helsinki and Stockholm’s bids for NATO membership until the end of June. A trilateral memorandum signed in Madrid made it possible for the alliance to formally invite Finland and Sweden to a summit in Spain. The document called on the two Nordic countries to address Turkish demands by ending their embargo on arms sales to Ankara and cracking down on individuals and organizations that Turkey has identified as terrorists. Among them are activists for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who have sought asylum in Sweden and Finland, and supporters of the exiled priest Fetullah Gulen.
Finland and Sweden remained neutral during the Cold War, but applied to join NATO on May 18 this year, citing concerns about their security in the midst of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. The parliaments of all 30 NATO countries must ratify their membership before it can enter into force.
Erdogan’s conditions had threatened to derail NATO’s plans to formally invite the duo to the June 28-30 summit in Madrid, but the last – minute agreement – reportedly beat over coffee – found the formula to move the process forward.
The United States intends to work with Finland, Sweden and Turkey to ensure that “this accession and ratification process around the world is as rapid and efficient as it can be,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday, adding that the White House wants to see them both in NATO “as soon as possible”.
Erdogan’s warning comes after the US House of Representatives passed the text of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which required further certification before Turkey could buy more F-16 fighter jets. US President Joe Biden insisted last month that the F-16 sale was not a “consideration” for Ankara agreeing to NATO’s Nordic expansion, and said he could get congressional approval for it.