Turkey confirms opposition to NATO membership of Sweden and Finland | NATO News

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said delegations from the two NATO candidate countries “shouldn’t bother” to come to Ankara for talks.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed Turkey’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, rejecting a proposal from the Nordic countries to send delegations to Ankara to settle the issue.

“We will not say ‘yes’ to those [countries] who apply sanctions to Turkey to join the NATO security organization,” Erdogan said at a press conference on Monday, referring to Sweden’s decision in 2019 to suspend arms sales to Turkey for its military operation in neighboring Syria.

Turkey has also accused the two candidate nations of harboring “terrorist” groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), blacklisted by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.

“None of the countries has a clear position against terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said. “How can we trust them? »

Justice Ministry sources told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Monday that Sweden and Finland had failed to respond positively to Turkey’s 33 extradition requests over the past five years.

Ankara was looking for people accused of having links with the PKK and allied groups or of belonging to a movement blamed for the attempt to overthrow Erdogan in 2016, the agency reported.

Turkey has notably blamed Stockholm for showing what it describes as leniency towards the PKK, which has been waging an armed uprising against the Turkish state since 1984.

Sweden’s foreign ministry said earlier on Monday that senior officials from Sweden and Finland planned to visit Turkey for talks to address Ankara’s objections.

Erdogan reacted to the comments saying, “Are they going to come and persuade us? Excuse us, but they shouldn’t bother.” He added that NATO would become “a place where representatives of terrorist organizations concentrate” if the two countries joined.

Ankara’s approval will be needed for Finland and Sweden to join NATO, with applications having to be approved unanimously by the alliance’s 30 members.

Stefanie Babst, NATO’s former deputy assistant secretary general for public diplomacy and an analyst at the European Leadership Network, told Al Jazeera that “Turkey will eventually align with the consensus and welcome Finland and Sweden as new members”.

“In the meantime, they will try to negotiate in the negotiations in order to obtain returns,” she said.

Turkey may be aiming to get military hardware from Washington to modernize its fleet of obsolete F-16s and gain Western support to ease its struggling economy. On the home front, the analyst said the mention of the PKK was aimed at attracting support from Erdogan’s nationalist voters.

Ankara’s latest rebuke came after the Swedish government formally decided to apply for NATO membership. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson made the announcement on Monday, a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto confirmed that Finland would also apply for membership.

“We are leaving an era behind us and entering a new one,” Andersson told a news conference, adding that the bid could be handed in on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and would be synchronized with Finland.

Turkey surprised its NATO allies last week by saying it would not view their candidacies positively.

On the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Sunday in Berlin, Ankara adopted a more conciliatory tone and laid down its demands, saying it wanted the two countries to stop supporting groups like the PKK and lift the ban. arms sales.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Sweden and Finland could join NATO despite Turkey’s concerns. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed confidence “that we will be able to respond to the concerns expressed by Turkey”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due to meet Blinken in Washington on Wednesday, where Ankara’s objections are expected to be high on the agenda.

Sharon P. Juarez