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30 May, 2022 02:56

Turkey won't let ‘terrorism supporters’ join NATO

Sweden and Finland have yet to address Ankara’s security demands, President Erdogan says
Turkey won't let ‘terrorism supporters’ join NATO

Turkey will not approve Finland and Sweden's bids to join NATO until they properly address Ankara's concerns over their alleged support for terrorist organizations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, promising not to repeat “past mistakes.” 

“For as long as Tayyip Erdogan is the head of the Republic of Turkey, we definitely cannot say 'yes' to countries which support terrorism entering NATO,” the Turkish leader told reporters on returning from a trip to Azerbaijan, according to state media reports on Sunday.

Delegations from Sweden and Finland met with their Turkish counterparts in Ankara for talks last week, following the Nordic nations' joint application to join the US-led military alliance. Their accession requires the unanimous consent of all 30 member states, and Turkey has threatened to block the process unless the two countries crack down on groups it considers extremists.

“They are not honest or sincere,” Erdogan said about the talks’ results so far. “They don’t take necessary steps, they are still allowing the terrorists to freely walk in the streets of Stockholm and provide security to them with their police.”

“We cannot repeat the same mistake we made in the past towards these countries that shelter and feed these terrorists,” he added. He referred to a separate long-running feud with Athens over Cyprus, recalling how in 1980 Ankara “allowed Greece to return” after its partial withdrawal from NATO.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg previously acknowledged that Finland and Sweden are unlikely to become NATO members unless they fulfill Turkey’s demands. “No country has suffered as much from terrorist attacks as Turkey,” Stoltenberg on Thursday, adding that Turkey is an “important ally and when an ally has concerns it should be discussed and the problem resolved.”

Turkey is demanding that Sweden and Finland lift arms export restrictions on Turkey, and extradite people linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Gulen movement (FETO). While Sweden and Finland both consider the PKK a terrorist organization, Ankara wants the same designation applied to the YPG and PYD, the Kurdish military and political groups in Syria, respectively.

The two Nordic states both decided to break with their history of neutrality on May 15, citing Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine as motivating them to join NATO. Their membership bids were welcomed by Washington and its European NATO allies, however, Turkey and Croatia have threatened to obstruct the applications unless their national security concerns are addressed.

Moscow has called Sweden and Finland’s applications a “serious mistake with long-lasting ramifications” but has stated that their NATO aspirations were still less concerning than those of Ukraine, whose potential territorial claims could pose “huge risks for the entire continent” if it were accepted into the bloc.

Turkey has taken a neutral stance in the conflict, maintaining ties with both Ukraine and Russia and refusing to join Western sanctions against Moscow, while striving to assume the role of a mediator in the conflict. The Turkish president has announced talks with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, “to encourage the two parties to maintain channels of dialogue and diplomacy.”