Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Turkey’s NATO allies to “respect” the country’s concerns over the membership bids of Sweden and Finland, which Ankara accuses of harbouring “terrorists”.
“Our only expectation from NATO allies is … to first understand our sensitivity, respect and finally support it,” Erdogan told his AK party’s legislators in parliament on Wednesday.
All 30 NATO members should unanimously agree for the two historically neutral countries to join the alliance.
Turkey has accused Sweden and, to a lesser extent, Finland of harbouring people linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Both groups are considered “terrorist” groups by Turkey. The PKK is also on the “terrorist” lists of the US and the EU.
“We asked them to extradite 30 terrorists but they refused to do so,” Erdogan said.
“You will not send back the terrorists to us and then ask our support for your NATO membership … We cannot say ‘yes’ to make this security organisation being lacking in security,” he added, linking Turkey’s support for the Nordic countries’ membership bid to return of the suspects.
Turkish Justice ministry sources told the state-run news agency Anadolu on Monday that Sweden and Finland had failed to respond positively to Turkey’s 33 extradition requests during the past five years.
Turkish officials have also repeatedly slammed Stockholm for its arms sanctions against Ankara.
Sweden has frozen arms sales to Turkey since 2019 over Ankara’s military operation in neighbouring Syria.
“We are sensitive about protecting our borders against attacks from terror organisations,” said Erdogan, calling on NATO allies to support Turkey’s “legitimate” Syria operations or at least not to stand in their way.
The Turkish leader also repeated that he was not warm to Swedish or Finnish delegations’ request to visit Ankara for consultations.
“They want to come on Monday. They shouldn’t bother. There’s no need,” he said.