Erdogan warns Turkey may still block Nordic NATO drive

News About Turkey - NAT
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses media representatives during a press conference at the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 30, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday told Sweden and Finland that he could still block their drives to join NATO if they fail to implement a new deal with Ankara, Agence France-Presse reported.

Erdoğan issued his blunt warning at the end of a NATO summit at which the US-led alliance formally invited the Nordic countries to join the 30-nation bloc.

The two nations dropped their history of military non-alignment and announced plans to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their bids were headed for swift approval until Erdoğan voiced concerns in May.

He accused the two of providing a haven for outlawed Kurdish militants and promoting “terrorism.”

Erdoğan also demanded they lift arms embargoes imposed in response to Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.

A 10-point memorandum signed by the three sides on the sidelines of the NATO summit on Tuesday appeared to address many of Erdoğan’s concerns.

Erdoğan lifted his objections and then held a warm meeting with US President Joe Biden that was followed by a promise of new warplane sales to Turkey.

Yet Erdoğan told reporters at an impromptu press conference held as the summit ended that the memorandum did not mean Turkey would automatically approve the two countries’ membership.

New countries’ applications must be approved by all members and ratified by their respective parliaments.

Erdoğan warned Sweden and Finland’s future behavior would decide whether he forwarded their application to the Turkish parliament for ratification.

“If they fulfil their duties, we will send it to the parliament. If they are not fulfilled, it is out of the question,” he said.

One Western diplomatic source in the hallways of the NATO summit accused Erdoğan of engaging in “blackmail.”

Erdoğan expects ‘action’

Erdoğan said he expected the deal to be applied “not only in words but also in action.”

He delivered his message one day after Turkey said it would seek the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden.

The 33 were all accused of being either outlawed Kurdish militants or members of a group led by a US-based preacher Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Wednesday Erdoğan appeared to be referring to cases that had already been processed by officials and the courts.

“I would guess that all of these cases have been solved in Finland. There are decisions made, and those decisions are partly made by our courts,” Niinisto told reporters in Madrid.

“I see no reason to take them up again.”

Most of Turkey’s demands and past negotiations have involved Sweden because of its more robust ties with the Kurdish diaspora.

Sweden keeps no official ethnicity statistics but is believed to have 100,000 Kurds living in the nation of 10 million people.

Stockholm recognized the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a “terrorist” organization in the 1980s but has adopted a more supportive stance toward its Syrian offshoot.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said she intended to “cooperate more closely with Turkey” in the fight against the PKK.

But she also stressed she would “comply with Swedish and international law in this matter” and not extradite any of her country’s citizens.

The Brookings Institution warned Turkey’s “loose and often aggressive framing” of the term “terrorist” could lead to problems in the months to come.

“The complication arises from a definition of terrorism in Turkish law that goes beyond criminalizing participation in violent acts and infringes on basic freedom of speech,” the US-based institute said in a report.

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