Does Erdogan close NATO doors for Sweden and Finland?

Does Erdogan close NATO doors for Sweden and Finland?

Turkey doesn’t favor Sweden and Finland joining NATO, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul on Friday, potentially dashing the two countries’ hopes of a quick accession to the military alliance. Any enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization requires unanimous approval of the alliance’s members. Turkey’s been a NATO member since 1952, Bloomberg writes.

Erdogan cited concerns over the presence of “terrorists” in both countries. Turkey wants Sweden and Finland to take a clear stance against supporters of separatist Kurdish militants fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast, a senior Turkish official said. Ankara will hold negotiations over their membership in the alliance, he added. 

“We are following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we are not in a positive mindset,” Erdogan said in televised remarks after Friday prayers in Istanbul. “Scandinavian countries are like guest houses of terrorist organizations. They even take part in their parliaments. At this point, it is not possible for us to look at it positively.”

Turkey has long complained of insufficient cooperation from NATO and European allies against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is labeled as a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said he expects all allies to welcome the countries’ prospective membership and that the accession process would be swift. Turkish officials haven’t conveyed any sort of message during recent meetings, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ann Linde said in emailed comments. Spokespeople for the alliance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Finnish Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

Despite their orientation toward the US and western Europe, Finland and Sweden had bet since the Cold War that their national security was best protected by staying out of NATO. They aimed to avoid disturbing the military balance in the Baltic Sea region and provoking Russia. But Russia’s special operation in Ukraine sparked a rethinking in both countries. 

Turkey has sought a middle ground over the crisis in Ukraine. The government in Ankara has been reluctant to burn its bridges with Russian, but it has supplied Kyiv with drones and shut its straits and air space to military ships and aircraft.