TurkeyMiddle East

Turkey threatens to block Nordic NATO bids over ‘security concerns’

Turkey has threatened to obstruct the process of Sweden and Finland joining the NATO military alliance if the two Nordic states fail to address Ankara’s “security concerns” related to the pair’s support for Kurdish militants outlawed in Turkey.

On Wednesday, Swedish and Finnish delegations met with Turkish official in Ankara to address their objections to their NATO bids.

Ending decades of military neutrality, Sweden and Finland have applied to join the US-led military alliance in the wake of tensions with Moscow over the Russian military campaign in Ukraine.

All 30 NATO members must agree on admitting new members.

The Swedish delegation, led by State Secretary Oscar Stenstrom, and the Finnish delegation, headed by his counterpart Jukka Salovaara, met with Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal at the presidential palace in Ankara.

In a news conference after the talks that lasted about five hours, Kalin said Turkey would not agree to the two Nordic countries joining NATO unless specific steps were taken to address Ankara’s objections.

“We have made it very clear that if Turkey’s security concerns are not met with concrete steps in a certain timeframe the process will not progress,” Kalin told the news conference.

Turkey’s opposition to the countries’ membership in the Western military alliance stems from Sweden’s — and to a lesser extent Finland’s — perceived support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other entities that Turkey views as “terrorists” and security threats.

Militants of the PKK — designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union — regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq. The decades-long conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group has led to death of tens of thousands of people.

Turkish government has accused the two countries of giving a safe haven to the PKK and refusing to extradite the terrorists.

Additionally, Sweden and Finland, among others, also placed restrictions on arms exports to Turkey after its military offensive against the YPG in 2019.

Kalin said Turkey’s proposal to lift arms export limits was met with a “positive attitude” by the Swedish and Finnish delegations, adding that talks would continue once the Nordic governments responded to Turkey’s demands.

Turkey also expects the extradition of 28 “terrorism” suspects from Sweden and 12 from Finland, Kalin said, adding that there was “no legal or judicial basis” not to extradite them.

Turkey said that it has requested the extradition of Kurdish militants and other suspects since 2017 but hasn’t received a positive response from Stockholm.

Back to top button