SHARE
COPY LINK

NATO

Turkey’s Erdogan puts conditions on support for Sweden, Finland Nato bids

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Turkey would not look "positively" on Sweden and Finland's Nato bids unless its terror-related concerns were addressed, despite broad support from other allies including the United States.

In this photo made available by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 20th, 2022.
In this photo made available by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 20th, 2022. Photo: Turkish Presidency via AP/TT

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan’s threat throws a major potential obstacle in the way of the likely membership bids from the hitherto militarily non-aligned Nordic nations since a consensus is required in Nato decisions.

“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.

On Twitter, Stoltenberg said he spoke with Erdogan “of our valued ally” on the importance of “Nato’s Open Door”.

“We agree that the security concerns of all Allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution,” he said.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg said Turkey’s “concerns” were being addressed to find “an agreement on how to move forward”.

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.

He told Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson that “Sweden’s political, financial and arms support to terrorist organisations must end”, the presidency said.

Turkey expects Sweden to “take concrete and serious steps” that show it shares Ankara’s concerns over the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Iraqi and Syrian offshoots, Erdogan told the Swedish premier, according to the presidency.

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.

‘Incompatible’

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has shifted political opinion in both Nordic countries in favour of joining the Western military alliance.

Membership requires consent of all 30 existing members but Turkey is putting a spanner in the works.

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.

In another phone call with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan said turning a blind eye to “terror” organisations posing a threat to a Nato ally was “incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance.”

Erdogan also said it was Turkey’s most natural right to expect respect and support for its “legitimate and determined struggle against a clear threat to its national security and people”, the presidency said.

Swedish and Finnish leaders on Thursday were 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.”

READ MORE:

Turkey ambassador suggests extradition of Swedish member of parliament

INTERVIEW: What does the end of neutrality mean for Sweden?

Member comments

  1. Sweden can not meet all these demands , and the President of Turkey knows it , so it’s just two fingers to the Swedish Government or Up Yours Turkish Style .

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

NATO

Turkey drops objections to Sweden joining Nato

Turkey has dropped its objections to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, paving the way for the two Nordic nations to join the North Atlantic defence alliance.

Turkey drops objections to Sweden joining Nato

“We have reached an agreement between Sweden, Turkey and Finland which means that Turkey now accepts that we will be granted invitee status in Nato. That’s important, as it will improve Sweden’s security,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said after a meeting in Madrid with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It was a very long meeting and Sauli Niinistö and I could describe all the measures we in Sweden have taken regarding terrorism legislation in recent years, and now on July 1st we are tightening that legislation significantly,” Andersson added.

The process of joining Nato requires the approval of all 30 existing members. Turkey had set out a string of demands, including the extradition of what it claims are Kurdish terrorists living in Sweden and a relaxation of Sweden’s ban on selling arms to Turkey. 

In a press release, Nato said that the foreign ministers of Turkey, Sweden and Finland had all signed a trilateral memorandum (find copy here) which addressed “Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns”. 

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Nato leaders would as a result now be able to issue a formal invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. 

“I’m pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join Nato. Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports,
and the fight against terrorism,” he said. 

As aspiring Nato members, he added, Finland and Sweden would not give support to the PYD, the Democratic Union Party of Syria, which runs the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, and would not support the Gülen movement. 

The agreement commits Sweden and Finland to not supporting the PYD, but only classes the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Turkey has previously insisted on describing the PKK/PYD as a single entity. 

The deal also covers the export of Swedish weapons to Turkey. Sweden has not exported weapons to Turkey in recent years, a decision Turkey interprets as an arms embargo. 

“Turkey, Finland and Sweden confirm that there are no national arms embargoes between them. Sweden is changing its national regulatory framework for arms exports in relation to Nato allies,” the document reads. “In future, defence exports from Finland and Sweden will be conducted in accordance with Alliance solidarity and the letter and spirit of Article 3 of the Washington Treaty.”

“If we become Nato members, of course this will have repercussions on how we interpret Swedish weapons exports legislation,” Andersson conceded at the press conference.  

According to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper, Säpo, Sweden’s security police, has drawn up a list of “at least ten” people living in Sweden with links to the Kurdish PKK terror organisation, who can be extradited to Turkey. 

According to the newspaper’s government source, two people with PKK links have already been extradited to Turkey this year, and more could follow.

However, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö stressed to reporters at the press conference that the trilateral deal does not name any individuals who Turkey wants extradited. Instead the agreement commits Sweden and Finland to handling extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly”. 

Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, sent out a celebratory tweet shortly after the announcement. 

She said that the two countries would then start formal accession talks in Brussels next week after which Sweden would officially become a Nato invitee. 

READ ALSO: The next five steps to a Swedish Nato membership

SHOW COMMENTS