This content was published on May 14, 2022 – 14:05
By Orhan Coskun, Jonathan Spicer and Can Sezer
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has not closed the door for Sweden and Finland to join NATO, but wants negotiations with the Nordic countries and a breakdown of what is seen as terrorist activities, especially in Stockholm, said President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman on Saturday .
“We are not closing the door. But we are basically addressing this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Ibrahim Kalin, who is also the president’s top foreign policy adviser, told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.
Erdogan surprised NATO members and the two Nordic countries applying for membership by saying on Friday that it was not possible for Turkey to support an expansion of the alliance because Finland and Sweden were “home to many terrorist organizations”.
Every country that wants to join the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance needs the unanimous support of the members of the military alliance. The United States and other member states have sought to clarify Ankara’s position.
Sweden and its closest military partner, Finland, have so far been outside NATO, which was founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The two countries are cautious about antagonizing their big neighbor, but their security concerns have increased since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Stockholm is largely expected to follow Helsinki and can apply to join the military alliance with 30 countries as early as Monday.
Kalin said that the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union – raised money and recruited in Europe and that its presence is “strong and open and recognized” in Sweden in particular.
“What needs to be done is clear: they need to stop allowing PKK stores, activities, organizations, individuals and other types of presence to … exist in these countries,” Kalin said.
“NATO membership is always a process. We will see how it goes. But this is the first point we want to draw attention to all allies as well as Swedish authorities,” he added. “Of course we want a discussion, a negotiation with Swedish counterparts.”
Turkey, NATO’s second-largest military, has officially supported enlargement since joining the US-led alliance 70 years ago.
For years, it has criticized Sweden and other European countries for their handling of organizations believed to be terrorists by Turkey, including supporters of the US-based Islamic priest Fethullah Gulen.
Article 5 of the NATO Charter states that an attack on any NATO country should be seen as an attack on all. While Sweden and Finland have long had close relations with NATO, they are not covered by its security guarantee.
Turkey has criticized Russia’s invasion, helped arm Ukraine – which is not a member of NATO – and tried to facilitate talks between the sides but opposes sanctions against Moscow. It wants NATO “to address the concerns of all members, not just some,” Kalin said.
Asked if Turkey risked becoming too transactional in a time of war, and when Finnish and Swedish public opinion advocated NATO membership, he said: “One hundred percent of our population is very upset about the PKK and the FETO (Gulenist) ) presence in Europe. “
“If they (Finland and Sweden) have a public that is concerned about their own national security, we have a public that is equally concerned about our own security,” he said. “We have to look at this from a mutual perspective.”
Kalin said that Russia’s sharp criticism of Finland and Sweden over their plans was not a factor in Turkey’s position.
(Written by Jonathan Spicer, edited by Timothy Heritage)