Turkey, Tayyip Erdoğan

Erdoğan: Turkey will not approve Finland and Sweden NATO bid

Turkey accuses Finland and Sweden of tolerating terrorist groups like the PKK. “How are we going to trust them?” asks Erdoğan.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Monday that Turkey will not approve the Finland and Sweden NATO bid, reiterating the objections expressed by Ankara in recent days regarding both Nordic countries, which the Turkish government accuses of maintaining an ambiguous position on terrorist groups that threaten the security of Turkey.

Erdoğan’s remarks, made late on Monday during a joint press conference in Ankara with the Algerian president, come on the same day that both Nordic countries officially announced their desire to formally apply to join the Atlantic Alliance. 3 days ago, Erdoğan himself had already warned that Turkey – which has the right to veto in NATO – was not in favor of the incorporation of Sweden and Finland due to the support it provides to the PKK – recognized as a terrorist group by the EU – and its Syrian branch, the YPG.

“Neither of the two countries has a clear and transparent position towards terrorist organizations… How are we going to trust them?” Erdoğan reiterated on Monday during the joint appearance with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. “Furthermore, we cannot say ‘yes’ to those who are imposing sanctions against Turkey, about joining NATO, which is a security organization,” he added, referring to the embargo on arms exports against Turkey, which Sweden and Finland have maintained since the The Turkish army launched a military operation in northern Syria against the PKK/YPG in 2019.

During his appearance, Erdoğan went so far as to describe Sweden as “a nest of terrorist organizations”, assuring that there are deputies in the Swedish parliament who support the PKK, which is considered an international terrorist group not only by the EU, but also by the USA.

Erdoğan: “If they want to convince us to change our minds, they shouldn’t bother”

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson had confirmed shortly before that her country would formally apply for NATO membership, just a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto made a similar announcement. Earlier Monday morning, the Swedish foreign ministry had announced that a high-level delegation made up of representatives from Sweden and also from Finland will travel to Ankara to try to address Turkey’s concerns and seek its support in the Alliance.

The Turkish president, however, referred to this announced visit to Ankara saying that “they should not bother to come“, arguing that it will be in vain if their intention is to change the Turkish position. “They say they are coming to Turkey… Are they coming to convince us? Excuse me, but better not bother,” Erdoğan declared, again insisting that NATO would become “a place where representatives of terrorist groups meet” if both countries are incorporated into the defence organization.

Sweden and Finland refused to extradite perpetrators of the coup in Turkey

The Turkish president argued his position by recalling that both Sweden and Finland have refused to extradite to Turkey people accused by Ankara of having links with the PKK terrorist group, as well as with FETÖ, an acronym that the Turkish government uses to refer to the organization led by the Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of organizing the failed 2016 coup in Turkey, which left more than 250 people dead in the country.

Turkey’s own Ministry of Justice recalled on Monday that in the last 5 years Finland has refused to extradite 6 members of the PKK and another 6 of FETÖ, while Sweden did the same in that period with 11 PKK terrorists and 10 members of the Gülen organization. To these extradition requests, Finland and Sweden responded by refusing to extradite 19 of those requested by Ankara, while in another 5 cases they did not even issue a response to the Turkish government’s request. There was only a positive response to 9 extraditions requests: however, years later they remain unprocessed.

On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu referred to informal meetings he held over the weekend in Berlin with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts as inconclusive, explaining that while Finland is more “realistic” and appears willing to collaborate, Sweden’s attitude “is not constructive”, with statements by the Swedish foreign minister that the Turkish government has branded as “provocative”.

During the meeting in Berlin, held just two days after Erdoğan said that Turkey was “unfavourable” to the Finland and Sweden NATO bid, Çavuşoğlu himself gave evidence to both ministers that there are terrorists on their territory who have attacked against Turkey and organize activities with impunity; the Turkish foreign minister particularly highlighted the case of Sweden, where members of the PKK terrorist group held a meeting in Stockholm just a few days ago, with total impunity.