Erdoğan: Turkey ‘not positive’ about Sweden and Finland joining NATO | NATO

Erdoğan: Turkey ‘not positive’ about Sweden and Finland joining NATO |  NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed doubts about Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, saying he has no positive opinion of the two Nordic nations joining the military alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine.

His comments came as a Swedish parliamentary security clearance said membership would reduce the risk of conflict in northern Europe, and a day after neighboring Finland said it intended to join the alliance.

Finland and Sweden, both NATO partners, have long viewed membership as an unnecessary provocation from Russia, their powerful eastern neighbor. However, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a radical rethinking of security policy.

NATO membership would require ratification by all existing members, and Erdoğan told journalists after leaving Friday prayers in Istanbul that Turkey would not welcome that either.

“We are currently following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we are not positive about it,” he said.

Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952 and its membership remains a cornerstone of its foreign policy towards Western countries. The comments appeared to be aimed at the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which considers Turkey a terrorist organization, although they appeared to encompass Kurdish-origin communities in Scandinavia as a whole.

“We don’t want to make any mistakes,” he added. “The Scandinavian countries are like guest houses for terrorist organizations. To go further, they also have seats in their parliaments.”

Sweden has a large Kurdish diaspora and prominent Swedish citizens of Kurdish origin currently include six MPs. The Turkish authorities have provided no evidence that the parliamentarians have links to the PKK or similar groups outside Sweden.

The Kurdish-speaking population of Finland was estimated at just over 15,000 people in 2020, less than 0.3% of the population.

Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto urged patience on Friday and called for a step-by-step approach towards Turkey. “We need some patience with this kind of process, it doesn’t happen in a day… Let’s take the issues one step at a time,” he told reporters.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö said Thursday the country “must immediately apply for NATO membership”. Government confirmation of the decision is expected on Sunday, with parliamentary approval likely early next week.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats will also decide on Sunday whether to officially approve joining NATO and are widely expected to drop decades of resistance to membership. Parliament will debate security issues on Monday.

The security review released on Friday made no recommendation but said building defense alliances outside of existing structures is not realistic.

“Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a conflict-preventing effect in Northern Europe,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde when presenting the report’s conclusions.

“The most important consequence of Swedish membership would be that Sweden would be part of NATO’s collective security and would be included in the security guarantees under Article 5 [of the alliance’s founding treaty],” She said.

Article 5, the cornerstone of the US-led defense alliance, states that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all, and obliges its current 30 members to defend one another in the event of armed aggression.

The Swedish report, due to be debated in Parliament on Monday, noted that “under current cooperation there is no guarantee that Sweden would be helped if it were the target of a serious threat or attack”.

Daily Expressen has reported that a special cabinet meeting will be called after Monday’s parliamentary debate, where Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is expected to broadcast Sweden’s application for membership of NATO by the end of the day.

Not all party members of the ruling Social Democrats are automatically for it. “I think everyone would have wished for more time on this because it’s a huge issue,” Stefan Löfven, prime minister from 2014 to 2021, told Agence France-Presse.

Moscow has previously warned that Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership would force it to “restore the balance” by strengthening its defenses in the Baltic Sea, including stationing nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania.

Linde pointed out that Russia regards Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership as “negative”. She said neither country expected a “conventional military attack” in response, but added that “an armed attack cannot be ruled out”.

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Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said on Friday: “If Sweden decides to join NATO, there is a risk of a reaction from Russia. Let me say that in such a case we are ready to deal with any backlash.”

Public support for NATO membership in Finland, which shares an 810-mile (1,300 km) border with Russia, has more than tripled to about 76% since the Russian attack on Ukraine and has risen to about 60% in Sweden .

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said both countries would be “welcomed with open arms” and that the accession process would be quick, although formal approval by all members of the alliance could take several months.

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