Turkey’s foreign minister has said Finland and Sweden should change their laws if needed to win Ankara’s backing in their historic bid to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, doubling down on a threat to veto an enlargement of the alliance.
Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Turkey, a NATO member for seven decades, would not lift its opposition to the two Nordic countries’ ascension unless its demands were met, echoing recent comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara has accused both countries of harbouring people linked to groups it deems to be “terrorists”, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and has taken issue with their decisions to halt arms exports to Turkey in 2019.
It has demanded they must halt their support for the PKK and other groups, bar them from organising any events on their territory, extradite those sought by Turkey on “terrorism” charges, support Turkey’s military and “counterterrorism” operations, and lift all arms exports restrictions.
For their part, Finland and Sweden have sought to negotiate a solution and other NATO member states have said they remain confident that the objections raised by Turkey – which has the transatlantic alliance’s second-biggest military – can be overcome.
All 30 NATO allies must unanimously approve any enlargement of the United States-led security body.
Sweden, Finland ‘have to change law’
Cavusoglu said Turkey had given visiting Finnish and Swedish delegations documents outlining its demands during talks in Ankara last week and that it was awaiting their response, adding he expected allies to work to address the security concerns.
“Are our demands impossible? No. We want them to halt their support for terror,” Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu news agency, adding Ankara was aware that some of its demands would require laws to be amended.
“They put it this way: ‘since we are far away from terror regions, our laws are designed that way.’ Well, then you need to change them,” he said. “They say it is allowed for the terrorist organisation to organise events and wave their rags around. Then you have to change your law.”
The Nordic states have said they condemn “terrorism” and are open to dialogue.
Cavusoglu also said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was working on the issue and had proposed holding talks in Brussels with all three countries, but said Turkey’s government saw no point in any such discussions before Stockholm and Helsinki had responded to its written demands.
“There need to be concrete things for us to discuss,” he said.
Membership bids to dominate Madrid summit
Earlier on Tuesday, Erdogan’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun told Finland’s largest daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that the country must take Turkey’s concerns seriously.
“Eventually Finland’s government must decide which is more important – to join NATO or protect these kinds of organisations,” he said, referring to the PKK and the other groups Ankara deems to be “terrorists”.
Altun’s remarks came after Stoltenberg said on Monday that the alliance’s upcoming summit in Madrid will be a “historic” opportunity to strengthen the alliance in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
He added the June 28-30 summit, which is set to be dominated by Sweden and Finland’s membership bids, will redefine NATO’s strategic priorities for the next decade.
These include confronting Chinese geopolitical ambitions and the rise of anti-democratic states, but the alliance’s most immediate focus will be on how to continue supporting Ukraine and contain Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“At the Madrid summit, we will chart the way ahead for the next decade, we will reset our deterrence and defence for a more dangerous world,” Stoltenberg said during a visit to the Spanish capital.