Turkey still blocking Nordic countries' NATO membership
NATO seeks to ensure Turkish concerns are addressed as it attempts to resolve the issue the country has with Finland and Sweden.
Turkey refused to allow Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO as Ankara’s concerns remain unaddressed. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that the two countries support terrorist organizations and that they will not repeat “past mistakes”.
“For as long as Tayyip Erdogan is the head of the Republic of Turkey, we definitely cannot say 'yes' to countries which support terrorism entering NATO,” the Turkish leader told state media reporters upon returning from a trip to Azerbaijan on Sunday.
The majority of Turkish people oppose the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO over their open support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara designated as terrorist, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier this month.
Following the Nordic countries’ joint application to join NATO, the two countries have held several talks with Turkey to address its concerns. A unanimous vote from all 30 member countries is necessary for NATO accession. Turkey threatens to block the process as it considered its concerns ignored.
Erdogan stated that both Finland and Sweden are not honest in their discussions with Turkey. They said one thing but continued to allow PKK members to roam around their countries freely. The Turkish President recounted what he deemed as a mistake in 1980, when Ankara “allowed Greece to return” - after Athens had partially withdrawn from NATO - despite their feud with them over Cyprus.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg previously admitted that Finland and Sweden are unlikely to have their NATO membership approved without the fulfillment of Turkey’s demands.
Spoke with Foreign Minister @MevlutCavusoglu about the decisions by our closest partners #Finland & #Sweden to apply for #NATO membership. #Turkey is a valued Ally & any security concerns need to be addressed. We must stand together at this historic moment.— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) May 16, 2022
“No country has suffered as much from terrorist attacks as Turkey,” said Stoltenberg last Thursday. He also noted that Turkey is an ally that has great value “and when an ally has concerns it should be discussed and the problem resolved.”
Turkey's demands for NATO and prospective members Finland and Sweden included:
- The removal of sanctions imposed on Ankara over its purchase of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, as well as re-inclusion in the F-35 advanced aircraft program
- The extradition of people linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and Gulen movement (FETO)
- The designation of the YPG and PYD, Kurdish military and political groups in Syria, as terrorist organizations as the countries have done for the PKK in the past.
On May 15, the Nordic countries decided to break their neutrality and join NATO. The decision came as a repercussion of the Ukraine war and the collective-West’s approach to the situation. The bid for NATO was welcomed by Washington and other European NATO allies but dubbed a mistake by Russia.
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Moscow called Sweden and Finland’s bids for membership a “serious mistake with long-lasting ramifications.” Russia had also stated that the Nordic countries’ NATO aspirations do not pose Russia the same level of threat as Ukraine had.
Turkey has taken a neutral stance between Washington and NATO on one hand, and Russia on the other. It maintained a balanced relationship with both powers. Turkey also refused to join the collective-West in its sanctions campaign against Russia. Rather Turkey had tried to play the role of mediator several times.