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Turkey threatens to stall Sweden, Finland in NATO talks

Print edition : Jun 18, 2022 T+T-

Turkey threatens to stall Sweden, Finland in NATO talks

Both Nordic countries have submitted applications despite Turkey’s objections.

Both Nordic countries have submitted applications despite Turkey’s objections.

Turkey says it will stall the process of Sweden and Finland joining NATO if they fail to address its security concerns.

Delegations from Sweden and Finland were in Ankara on May 25 seeking to address Turkish objections to their joining the NATO military alliance. Turkey objects to the accession of the Nordic countries, citing their perceived support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG. Ankara claims such groups are a threat to its security.

How did the meeting go?

The Swedish delegation, led by State Secretary Oscar Stenstrom, and the Finnish delegation, led by his counterpart Jukka Salovaara, met 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 had observed a “positive approach” by both countries when it came to lifting weapon export restrictions. However, he 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,’‘ Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference .

The two countries’ applications to join the alliance as a defence against feared aggression from Russia would end decades of military neutrality. Finland — which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia — and its neighbour Sweden have been disturbed by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

What are Turkey’s objections?

Ankara accuses the two countries of giving a safe haven to the PKK and refusing to extradite terrorists. Sweden and Finland, among others, also placed restrictions on arms exports to Turkey after its military offensive against the YPG in 2019. The PKK is listed as a terror organisation by several of Turkey’s allies, including the EU. It has conducted a decades-long insurgency against Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has personally expressed deep opposition to giving the green light to the enlargement unless there are major concessions.

What was the aim of the meetings?

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, visiting Israel on May 25, announced the three-way meeting in advance on May 24. He said that Turkey would present its demands for lifting the veto at that meeting. After a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel in Stockholm, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country wanted to “clarify” claims that have been floating around during discussions with Turkey. “We do not send money or weapons to terrorist organizations,’‘ Andersson said.

rc/rt (AP, AFP)