Turkey’s president reiterated his objections to Finland and Sweden joining Nato, barely hours after they announced their intentions.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that the two Scandinavian countries do not need to send delegations to Turkey, a vital Nato member, to persuade it of their aspirations.
He is enraged by their willingness to house Kurdish extremists, as he perceives it.
Sweden had previously stated that Europe was living in a perilous new reality as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The decision by Finland and Sweden to join the 30-member military alliance does not directly threaten Moscow, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but any expansion of military facilities will prompt a response from Moscow.
Mr Erdogan stated during a press conference on Monday that Turkey opposes the Finnish and Swedish proposals.
“Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation. How can we trust them?” the Turkish president said.
Turkey accuses the two Nordic nations of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group it views as a terrorist organisation, and followers of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Mr Erdogan’s government has also pledged to block applications from countries that have imposed sanctions on it.
In 2019, both Nordic nations slapped an arms embargo on Ankara after its incursion into Syria.
Speaking in parliament in Helsinki on Monday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he was surprised by Turkey’s stance, but added that his government was not interested in “bargaining” with Mr Erdogan.
Finland formally announced its bid to join Nato last week.
On Saturday, it was joined by Sweden, putting an end to the Scandinavian country’s centuries-long military non-alignment.
At a press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said, “NATO will strengthen Sweden, and Sweden will strengthen Nato.”
She claimed that Europe was now living in a perilous new reality as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of Finland, and President Sauli Niinisto. Getty Images | Heikki Saukkomaa | Afp
During a debate in Stockholm on Monday, Ms Andersson said, “We are leaving one era behind us and entering a new one.”
She stated that a formal application could be submitted in a matter of days and would be coordinated with Finland. Nato has indicated that it is willing to accept the two new members.
However, Ms Andersson stressed that Sweden did not want permanent Nato bases or nuclear weapons on its territory.
Norway, Denmark and Iceland – all Nato members – immediately said they were ready to support Sweden and Finland by all means necessary if they came under attack.
The UK, also a Nato member, has already given security guarantees to Sweden and Finland to cover the transition period.
Monday’s announcement by Sweden came as Nato began one of its biggest exercises in the Baltic region, involving some 15,000 troops. Named “Hedgehog”, the drills in Estonia involve 10 countries, including Finland and Sweden.
For Finland and Sweden to join Nato, all 30 existing members must say yes. But for now, one is saying no.
President Erdogan says he won’t agree to admit countries which apply sanctions on Turkey.
Sweden suspended arms sales to Turkey three years ago, following Ankara’s military intervention in Syria. And according to the official Turkish news agency, both Finland and Sweden have rejected dozens of requests to extradite Kurdish militants who Turkey describes as terrorists.
Both countries are sending delegations to Ankara to try and solve the problem, but President Erdogan says they shouldn’t bother.
He seems determined to extract a price for his precious vote.
On Sunday, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said he was confident that Finland and Sweden would both join, despite Turkish objections.
The issue is likely to dominate discussions between Mr Blinken and his Turkish opposite number in Washington on Wednesday. Having encouraged the two Nordic countries to apply, Washington won’t want to let them down at the 11th hour.