Turkey clarifies position on new NATO members
Turkey is not seeking to outright shoot down the accession of Sweden and Finland to the US-led NATO bloc, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters on Saturday. Nonetheless, Ankara’s concerns about organizations it deems to be “terrorist” that are operating in these countries must be addressed, the official said.
“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Kalin clarified.
The official further elaborated on the position voiced by Erdogan on Friday, when the president said Ankara could not support the bids of Finland and Sweden, which are “like guesthouses for terrorist organizations.” To enter the organisation, potential inductees must get the support of all existing members.
Kalin explained that Ankara is particularly concerned about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization in Turkey, as well as in the EU and the US. The issue relates primarily to Sweden, the official clarified.
“What needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organizations, individuals and other types of presence to...exist in those countries,” Kalin said. “Of course we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with [our] Swedish counterparts.”
NATO membership is always a process. We will see how things go. But this is the first point that we want to bring to the attention of all the allies, as well as to Swedish authorities.
The PKK has been a sworn enemy of Ankara for decades, with the group waging low-intensity insurgency in Kurdish-populated areas of the country’s southeast. The Turkish authorities also regard Kurdish-led militias in neighboring Iraq and Syria, including the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as offshoots of the PKK and treats them as “terrorists” as well.
Turkey has repeatedly staged incursions into those neighboring countries to fight Kurdish militants over the past few years.