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Turkey threatens to stall Sweden, Finland in NATO talks

May 25, 2022

Turkey says it will stall the process of Sweden and Finland joining NATO if the Nordic nations fail to address its security concerns. The two countries applied to be members in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Turkish Presidency Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin (2nd L) and Finnish State Secretary for foreign affairs Jukka Salovaara (2nd R) lead a meeting between Turkey and Finland as Turkey's talks with Sweden, Finland on NATO bids begin in Ankara
Both Nordic countries have submitted applications despite Turkey's objectionsImage: Turkish Presidency/AA/picture alliance

Delegations from Sweden and Finland were in Ankara on Wednesday 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 .

Will Turkey's opposition to Sweden and Finland's NATO membership be overcome?

The two countries' applications to join the alliance as a defense against feared aggression from Russia would end decades of military neutrality.

Finland — which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia — and its neighbor 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 organization 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 Wednesday, announced the three-way meeting in advance on Tuesday. 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)