Accusing Scandinavian countries of harbouring Kurdish ‘terrorists’, Turkey’s leader hints at vetoing Finnish and Swedish plans to join NATO.
An official adjusts the Turkish flag before a news conference of Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, during the NATO summit in Brussels, 14 June 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/YVES HERMAN/POOL
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey does not have a “positive position” about Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance.
Both countries have signalled their intention to join after Russia invaded Ukraine, and most NATO countries welcome the idea.
But not Turkey. “We are currently following developments. We currently do not have a positive position on the issue of Sweden and Finland [joining NATO],” the Turkish leader said after Friday prayers in Istanbul.
New members can join the alliance only of all members unanimously agree, which effectively gives Turkey veto powers over any possible enlargement.
President Erdogan accused Scandinavian countries of acting as safe havens for “terrorists”.
“Scandinavian countries are like terrorist groups’ guesthouses. There are supporters of terrorism in [their] parliaments. We cannot be positive towards this,” Erdogan said.
He was likely referring to Sweden’s support for Kurdish YPG forces in Syria, which Turkey considers a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK.
Erdogan said: “Turkey won’t repeat the same mistake which it made with Greece’s accession to NATO,” accusing Greece of using its NATO membership against Turkey.
In 1974 due to Turkey’s military operations in Cyprus after a coup d’etat in Cyprus, Greece withdrew from NATO’s military command, but decided to return in 1980. Turkey’s government approved its return.
Following the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden, which had remained neutral in the Cold War, announced that they now were considering joining NATO.
Turkey continues to follow an ambiguous policy towards the Ukraine war, condemning the Russian invasion and maintaining ties with Ukraine, but not sanctioning Moscow or closing its airspace to Russian planes.
Ankara has organised several talks in Turkey between Ukraine and Russia to arrange a ceasefire, so far without success.
Turkey has been member of NATO since 1952, guarding the alliance’s eastern and southern flanks as well as the highly strategic Turkish Straits.
Turkey is the second largest NATO military force after the US. But relations between Ankara and its NATO allies have been deteriorated in recent years over President Erdogan’s foreign policy choices, rapprochement with Russia and increasingly authoritarian rule.
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