Turkey threatens to block Finland and Sweden from joining Nato

Turkey threatens to block Finland and Sweden from joining Nato

May 17, 2022

Turkey has vowed to veto Finland and Sweden’s Nato applications just hours after they confirmed they would seek membership.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the Scandinavian nations shouldn’t even bother sending diplomats to try and change his mind.

The countries have drawn the president’s anger over their welcoming of Kurdish refugees with ties to pro-independence groups.

At a news conference on Monday, he said Nato would become a ‘hatchery’ for terrorists if they joined, adding: ‘Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisations. How can we trust them?’

Sweden said it was ‘entering a new era’ when it announced a ‘broad majority’ of its MPs had backed the move on Sunday, ending decades of opposition to Nato membership linked to its self-proclaimed policy of neutrality.

Earlier in the day the Finnish government confirmed its intentions after 73 years of opposing the idea in order to balance relations with their Russian neighbours and the West.

Turkey has previously accused the countries of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an independence group it views as a terrorist organisation, and followers of the Gulen movement, which it accuses of attempting to overthrow Erdogan’s government in 2016.

Its justice ministry said it was focused on what it described as a poor response to its requests to extradite 33 people allegedly linked to the groups.

Some Western countries also view the PKK as a terrorist group, but Turkey has been widely accused of persecuting moderate Kurds under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Human rights groups say the Gulen movement has also been used as a false pretext to arrest thousands of political prisoners.

President Erdogan also complained about both countries’ refusal to sell him weapons since he sent troops into Syria in 2019 to kill Kurdish freedom fighters who had been battling Assad and Islamic State.

He added on Monday: ‘We will not say yes to those [countries] that apply sanctions to Turkey to join the security organisation Nato.

‘They say they will come to Turkey on Monday. Will they come to persuade us? Excuse us, but they shouldn’t bother.’

Meanwhile, Turkey’s state news agency claimed, without evidence, that Swedish-made anti-tank weapons were used by Kurdish fighters against Turkish forces in Syria.

The sudden escalation of Turkey’s rhetoric has prompted speculation that Erdogan may be using his veto as a negotiating tool to extract concessions from Nato or the Scandinavian countries.

Speaking in Finnish parliament on Monday, Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said he was surprised by Erdogan’s position but would not start ‘bargaining’ with him.

The UK has joined Norway, Denmark and Iceland in pledging to support Sweden and Finland if Russia were to attack them before the application process, which can take up to a year, is completed.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said last week that they should be integrated into the alliance ‘as soon as possible’ so as to ‘strengthen the collective security of Europe’.

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