Turkey blocks the start of accession talks with Finland and Sweden within NATO. This has been heard from NATO circles. According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, both countries “support terrorist organizations and NATO accession are not possible” unless one crucial condition is met.
That condition is that Sweden and Finland must return the “terrorists” they harbour to Turkey. “If they don’t, the Swedish and Finnish delegations shouldn’t bother coming to Ankara to convince us,” Erdogan said.
According to Ankara, Sweden (and Finland) harbours people associated with groups Turkey considers terrorists. These include members of the militant wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and supporters of Fethullah Gülen. This influential Islamist thinker accuses Ankara of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. “NATO expansion only makes sense for us in proportion to the respect shown for our sensitivities,” Erdogan said.
On Wednesday morning, it was not yet possible for the NATO Council to start the talks necessary to start the accession process. Turkey persists in opposing the accession of the two countries.
Sweden and Finland had previously formally applied for NATO membership. On Wednesday, ambassadors from the two northern countries handed over the necessary documents to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
It was actually intended that the NATO Council would then immediately decide on the start of accession negotiations. However, it is reported in NATO circles that Turkey expressed its security concerns during the meeting and made it clear that it could not agree at this point.
An alliance spokesman declined to comment on the talks in the NATO Council. He only emphasized that Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is determined to quickly find a solution for Finland and Sweden. “Both countries are our closest partners, and joining NATO would strengthen Euro-Atlantic security,” he said.
All current 30 NATO member states must agree to the candidatures. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already said he has reservations about the Finnish and Swedish membership.