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24 May, 2022 15:09

Key NATO member to set out terms for aspirants

Turkey says written guarantees will be required from Sweden and Finland during a meeting on Wednesday
Key NATO member to set out terms for aspirants

Delegations from NATO aspirants Sweden and Finland will meet top Turkish officials in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss Turkey's objections to their membership in the alliance. The Turkish foreign minister said on Tuesday his country would demand guarantees from the Nordic nations on curbing “support of terrorism.”

The European delegations are headed by Swedish Secretary of State Oscar Stenstrom and his Finnish counterpart Jukka Salovaara, the second-top diplomats in their respective governments. They will meet Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal and Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his nation will seek written guarantees from Finland and Sweden that they will address Turkey’s concerns before their NATO accession can proceed.

“We expect concrete steps, we cannot move forward with some good wishes,” he told CNN Turk. A four-way meeting involving a NATO representative may also take place, the minister added.

Ankara wants the two nations to take action against Kurdish militants, whom the Turkish government considers terrorists, and to lift restrictions on arms trade with Turkey, the minister said.

President Erdogan’s office outlined the same demands directed specifically at Sweden on Monday.

The statement stressed that Turkey has sought the extradition of wanted individuals from Sweden since 2017. It demanded that Sweden stop what Turkey described as financing of terrorist organizations and lift an arms embargo, imposed in response to Turkish military action in Syria in 2019.

Delegations from the Nordic nations will try to resolve Turkish “security concerns vis a vis terrorism”, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “There might be also some issues that are not linked directly to Finland and Sweden but more to other NATO members,” he added.

Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, who is making a visit to Palestine and Israel this week, also discussed Turkey’s request to buy F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits from the US. The deal is progressing and is not linked to NATO expansion, he told journalists during his flight to Tel Aviv.

“We have requested the removal of defense restrictions from the US, and we will continue to demand it,” he added, referring to sanctions imposed by Washington against Turkey in retaliation for its purchase of advanced Russian S-400 air defense systems.

Some American politicians, including the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, have suggested the F-16 deal could be frozen, unless Turkey agrees to welcome Finland and Sweden as new members of NATO.

The two Nordic nations formally requested admission into the US-led military bloc last week. Accession requires the unanimous approval of all current NATO states including Turkey, which has threatened to wield its veto unless Finland and Sweden make key concessions with respect to its national security interests.