The Turkish president tells NATO chiefs that Sweden and Finland must address Ankara’s concerns before they can support their membership application.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Ankara would not view Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bid “positively” unless its concerns were addressed, despite widespread support from other allies, including the United States.
Turkey has long accused the Nordic countries, especially Sweden, which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of hosting banned Kurdish rebels and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted for the failed 2016 coup.
Erdogan’s opposition has thrown a major potential obstacle in the way of the probable offers of membership from the hitherto militarily non-aligned Nordic countries because consensus is required in NATO’s decision.
“Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach the NATO membership of these countries positively,” Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a telephone call, according to the presidency.
On Twitter, Stoltenberg said he spoke with Erdogan “about our valuable ally” about the importance of “NATO’s open door”.
“We agree that the security concerns of all allies must be taken into account and talks must continue to find a solution,” he said.
On Thursday, Stoltenberg said that Turkey’s “concerns” were raised to find “an agreement on how to proceed”.
Erdogan talks to leaders in Sweden and Finland
Erdogan, who refused to receive delegations from Sweden and Finland in Turkey, held separate telephone talks with the two countries’ leaders – Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson – on Saturday, urging them to abandon financial and political support to “terrorists”. groups that threaten his country’s national security.
Erdogan called on Sweden to lift the defensive arms export restrictions it imposed on Turkey due to Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria in 2019, a statement from the Turkish president said.
The Turkish leader also said he expected Stockholm to take “concrete and serious steps” against the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other groups that Ankara sees as “terrorists”.
Andersson tweeted that Sweden looks forward to strengthening our bilateral relations, including peace, security and the fight against terrorism.
The PKK has been rebelling against the Turkish state since 1984 and is blacklisted as a “terrorist organization” by Turkey and Western allies such as the EU – which includes Finland and Sweden.
Erdogan told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto “that an understanding that ignores terrorist organizations that pose a threat to a NATO ally is incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance”, the statement added.
In return, Niinisto praised “an open and direct telephone conversation” with Erdogan.
“I said that Finland and Turkey as allies of NATO will be committed to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” he tweeted.
Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The close dialogue continues. “
Sweden and Finland, although solidly Western, have historically kept their distance from NATO as part of a long-standing policy aimed at avoiding teasing Russia.
But the two nations went ahead with their membership application in shock over their giant neighbor’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully tried to join NATO.
On Thursday, Niinisto and Andersson visited Washington, where they spoke with US President Joe Biden about their offer to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden said “Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger”, and offered “full, complete support from the United States of America”.