Erdogan and NATO on conflict path as he sets conditions for Finland, Sweden’s NATO bids.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Sweden and Finland to stop supporting terror groups fighting Ankara before he’ll support their membership in the military alliance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday told the leaders of Sweden and Finland that he would block their bid to join NATO unless they halt what he considers their support for “terrorist” groups threatening Turkey’s national security. The two Nordic countries this week formally submitted their application to join the military alliance, ending their neutral stance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach these countries’ NATO membership positively,” Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call, according to the presidency.
Erdogan, who refused to host delegations from Sweden and Finland in Turkey, held separate phone calls with the two countries’ leaders on Saturday, urging them to abandon financial and political support for “terrorist” groups threatening his country’s national security.
The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is blacklisted as a “terrorist organisation” by Turkey and Western allies like the European Union — which includes Finland and Sweden.
“Ankara is signalling it will green light Helsinki’s accession to the alliance, but block membership for Stockholm — unless Sweden delivers concessions” on the PKK, he added.
Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.
But the two nations moved ahead with their membership bid in shock over their giant neighbour’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join NATO.
Erdogan also told Andersson to “lift restrictions imposed on Turkey in the defence industry” after the army’s Syria operation in 2019. Andersson tweeted that Sweden looked “forward to strengthening our bilateral relations, including on peace, security, and the fight against terrorism”. He also said it was Turkey’s natural right to expect respect and support for its “legitimate and determined struggle against a clear threat to its national security and people”, according to the presidency.
In return, Niinisto praised “an open and direct phone call” with Erdogan.“I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” he tweeted.
“Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Close dialogue continues.”
Swedish and Finnish leaders were on Thursday welcomed by US President Joe Biden, who strongly backed their bid to join NATO. Biden said “Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger”, and offered the “full, total, complete backing of the United States of America”.