HELSINKI ( Associated Press) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his country is “not conducive” to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, indicating that Turkey is using its membership in the Western Military Alliance to help both countries. To veto the steps for acceptance.
“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we do not hold a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters.
The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing alleged support for Kurdish militants from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries and others whom Turkey considers terrorists.
He said he did not want to repeat Turkey’s previous “mistake” since agreeing to rejoin Greece in 1980 to the military wing of NATO. He claimed that the action had allowed Greece to “take an attitude against Turkey” with the support of NATO.
Erdogan did not explicitly say that he would block any accession attempts by the two Nordic nations. However, NATO makes all its decisions by consensus, meaning that each of the 30 member states has a potential veto that can be involved.
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to reconsider their traditions of military non-alignment. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, public opinion in both countries rapidly increased in favor of NATO membership.
Should the two countries proceed down that path, it would be a setback for Russia as President Vladimir Putin cited NATO expansion near Russian territory as his justification for invading Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Souli Niinisto on Friday.
The White House said in a statement that Biden “underlined his support for NATO’s open door policy and the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their future, foreign policy and security arrangements.”
Ninisto’s office said the three leaders “shared deep concern over Russia’s war on Ukraine.”
“President Niinisto learned of Finland’s next steps towards NATO membership. President Niinisto conveyed (Biden) that Finland deeply appreciates all necessary support from the US,” the office said in a brief statement.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that Washington is “working to clarify Turkey’s position” and believes it is important for Finland and Sweden to join the coalition. The middle is “broad support”.
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken is due to meet his NATO counterparts, including the Turkish foreign minister, in Germany later this week.
The top US diplomat for Europe, Karen Donfried, told reporters ahead of Blinken’s visit that the United States supports Finland and Sweden’s possible NATO membership bids. He said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has convinced the US that the coalition is more united than ever.
Finland’s president and prime minister said on Thursday they were in favor of swiftly gaining NATO membership, paving the way for the country to announce the decision in the coming days. Sweden’s governing Social Democratic Party, led by Andersen, is expected to reveal its decision on Sunday.
Asked about Erdogan’s comments during a news conference in Helsinki, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Havisto said: “We need some patience in this type of process. It’s not happening in a day. At the moment I That’s all I can say. Let’s take the issues step by step.”
Finland’s minister said he could hold discussions with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Kavusoglu at a NATO meeting in Berlin over the weekend. Cavusoglu spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday, but Turkey’s foreign ministry did not provide details.
Stoltenberg has said that Finland and Sweden, if they formally apply to join the world’s largest security organization, will be welcomed with open arms.
Several NATO officials have said the accession process could be done in “a few weeks”, although it could take up to six months for member states to ratify the accession protocol.
Meanwhile, a Swedish government report on the changed security environment facing the Nordic country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine said Moscow would react negatively to Sweden joining NATO and launching a number of retaliatory measures.
The Swedish government’s security policy analysis, which will be used for Andersen’s cabinet to decide whether to subscribe to the Western military alliance, was presented to Swedish lawmakers on Friday.
The report did not include a recommendation whether Sweden should attempt to join NATO. But it pointed to NATO membership which brought many advantages to Sweden – above and beyond the collective security provided by the 30-member military alliance.
At the same time, it lists a number of tactics, including cyber attacks, violations of Swedish airspace and threats to use nuclear weapons, that Russia is likely to retaliate.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Matt Lee and Chris Megarian contributed in Washington.
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