Turkey confirms opposition to NATO membership for Sweden, Finland
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reiterated Turkey’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, rejecting the Nordic nations’ desire to send delegates to Ankara to discuss the issue.
“We will not say ‘yes’ to those [countries] that impose sanctions on Turkey in order for it to join the security organization NATO,” Erdogan said at a press conference on Monday, alluding to Sweden’s decision in 2019 to ban weapons supplies to Turkey due to its military intervention in neighboring Syria.
Turkey also accused the two bidders of harboring “terrorist” organisations, notably the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been banned by Ankara, the European Union, and the US.
“Neither country has taken a firm stand against terrorist organizations,” Erdogan remarked. “How can we believe them?”
According to Justice Ministry sources, Sweden and Finland have failed to reply favorably to Turkey’s 33 extradition petitions during the last five years.
Ankara sought persons suspected of having connections to the PKK and affiliated organisations, or of membership to a movement responsible for the attempted ouster of Erdogan in 2016, according to the agency.
Turkey has chastised Stockholm in particular for its alleged indulgence towards the PKK, which has conducted an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Earlier on Monday, the Swedish Foreign Office said that senior officials from Sweden and Finland will go to Turkey for discussions to resolve Ankara’s concerns.
“Will they come to convince us?” Erdogan responded to the remarks. Sorry, but they shouldn’t bother.” If the two nations join NATO, he says, it would become “a site where representatives of terrorist groups are congregated.”
Ankara’s agreement will be required for Finland and Sweden to join NATO, since membership bids must be accepted unanimously by the alliance’s 30 members.
According to Stefanie Babst, former NATO deputy assistant secretary-general for public diplomacy and analyst at the European Leadership Network, “Turkey will eventually align with the consensus and welcome Finland and Sweden as new members.”
“In the interim,” she continued, “they will attempt to negotiate in discussions in order to receive some returns.”
Turkey may seek military weapons from Washington in order to modernize its aging F-16 aircraft and to gain Western support for its struggling economy. On the domestic front, the expert believes the mention of the PKK was intended to sway Erdogan’s nationalist supporters.
Ankara’s latest reprimand came after Sweden’s government publicly announced its intention to seek for NATO membership. The declaration was made by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Monday, a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto stated that Finland would also seek for membership.
“We are leaving one period and entering a new one,” Andersson said at a press conference, adding that the application might be submitted on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday and would be coordinated with Finland.
Last week, Turkey stunned its NATO partners by stating it would not accept their applications.
On the margins of a NATO foreign ministers’ conference in Berlin on Sunday, Ankara struck a more conciliatory tone and spelled out its demands, saying it wanted the two nations to stop supporting terrorist organizations such as the PKK and ease the prohibition on weapons sales.
Despite Turkey’s reservations, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared on Sunday that Sweden and Finland will be allowed to join NATO. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed confidence that “we will be able to overcome the concerns highlighted by Turkey.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is set to meet with Blinken in Washington on Wednesday, with Ankara’s concerns anticipated to be high on the agenda.