-Turkish President says Nordic countries are ‘home to many terrorist Organisations’
-Working to clarify Turkey’s position on Sweden, Finland NATO bid, says Washington
ANKARA: President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it was not possible for NATO-member Turkey to support plans by Sweden and Finland to join the pact, saying the Nordic countries were “home to many terrorist organisations”.
Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent by launching the Ukraine invasion.
“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding it was a mistake for NATO to accept Greece as a member in the past.
Turkey has been officially supportive of enlargement since it joined NATO 70 years ago. Any decision on enlargement must be made by unanimous agreement of its members.
“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organisations,” Erdogan said.
“They are even members of the parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favour,” he added.
NATO states that membership is open to any “European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area”.
Following Erdogan’s opposition, top US diplomat for Europe at the State Department said the United States was working to clarify Turkey’s position on Sweden and Finland’s potential membership to NATO.
In a call with reporters, Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, said the topic will be discussed at the NATO ministerial meeting over the weekend in Berlin as foreign ministers from Turkey, Sweden and Finland among others will be attending.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also will attend the NATO meeting in Berlin. It was not immediately clear if he would be holding a bilateral meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“In terms of the comments President Erdogan has made, we’re working to clarify Turkey’s position,” Donfried said.
Though Turkey has officially supported NATO enlargement since it joined the U.S.-led alliance 70 years ago, its opposition could pose a problem for Sweden and Finland given new members need unanimous agreement.
Donfried was cautious in her comments, and repeatedly said the Biden administration first needed to fully understand Ankara’s position on this. “It’s not clear to me that Turkey is saying they will oppose.”