Erdogan says Turkey does not support Finland and Sweden joining NATO

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan addresses a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo

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ANKARA, May 13 (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it was not possible for NATO member Turkey to support plans by Sweden and Finland to join the pact, saying the Nordic countries were “home to many terrorist organizations”.

Although Turkey has officially supported enlargement since joining NATO 70 years ago, its opposition could pose a problem for Sweden and Finland as the new members need unanimous agreement.

Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow it, would spark the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to prevent by launching the invasion of Ukraine.

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“We are following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t have positive views,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that it was a mistake for NATO to accept Greece as a member in the past.

“As Turkey, we do not want to repeat similar mistakes. Also, the Scandinavian countries are guest houses for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said without giving details.

“They are even members of parliament in some countries. It is not possible that we are in favour,” he added.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Finns would be “warmly welcome” and promised a “smooth and speedy” accession process, which is also backed by Washington.

But Turkey has repeatedly criticized Sweden and other Western European countries for their handling of organizations Ankara views as terrorists, including the Kurdish militant groups PKK and YPG, and US-based followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara says the Gulenists carried out a coup attempt in 2016. Gulen and his supporters deny the allegation.

“Turkish national security elites see Finland and Sweden as semi-hostile, given the presence of the PKK and the Gulenists. It’s going to be hard to get approval,” Aaron Stein, director of research at the Institute for Policy Research, said on Twitter. Exterior.

The Swedish and Finnish foreign ministries did not immediately comment on Erdogan’s statement.

NATO states that membership is open to any “European state in a position to promote the principles of this Treaty and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.”

Finland and Sweden are already NATO’s closest partners, attending many meetings, regularly briefed on the situation in Ukraine, and participating in regular military exercises with NATO allies. Much of its military equipment is interoperable with NATO allies.

However, they cannot benefit from NATO’s collective defense clause – that an attack on one ally is an attack on all – until they join the alliance.

Moscow on Thursday called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.

Turkey criticized Russia’s invasion, sent armed drones to Ukraine and tried to facilitate peace talks between the parties. But he has not endorsed Western sanctions against Moscow and seeks to maintain close trade, energy and tourism ties with Russia.

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Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander in Stockholm, Essi Lehto in Helsinki, Daren Bulter in Istanbul, and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Edited by Jonathan Spicer and Jon Boyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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