The Turkish leader is opposed to allowing Finland and Sweden to join NATO

The Turkish leader is opposed to allowing Finland and Sweden to join NATO

In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media after Friday prayers Friday May 13, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey.  Erdogan said on Friday that his country is

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In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 13, 2022. Erdogan said on Friday that his country was “not favorable” to Finland and Sweden. Joining NATO, suggesting that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto the two countries’ admission. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

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In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 13, 2022. Erdogan said on Friday that his country was “not favorable” to Finland and Sweden. Joining NATO, suggesting that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto the two countries’ admission. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

HELSINKI (AP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his country was “not positive” about Finland and Sweden joining NATOsuggesting that Turkey could use its membership in the Western military alliance to veto the two countries’ admission.

“We follow the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we do not have a positive opinion,” Erdogan told reporters.

The Turkish leader justified his refusal by allegedly supporting Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey regards as terrorists.

He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” when it agreed to reinstate Greece in NATO’s military arm in 1980.

Erdogan did not directly say that he would block any attempts by the two Nordic nations to join. However, NATO makes all of its decisions by consensus, meaning each of the 30 member countries has potential veto power over who can join.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to reconsider their traditions of military non-alignment. Public opinion in the two countries began to shift rapidly in favor of NATO membership following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Should the two countries continue down this path, it would be a blow to Russia since President Vladimir Putin cited NATO expansion near Russian territory as one of his justifications for invading Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden held a telephone conversation with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Friday.

The White House said in a statement that Biden “underlined his support for NATO’s open-door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy and security arrangements.”

Niinistö’s office said the three leaders were “deeply concerned about Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

“President Niinistö discussed Finland’s next steps towards NATO membership. President Niinistö (Biden) said that Finland deeply appreciates the necessary US support,” the office said in a brief statement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Washington is “working to clarify Turkey’s position” and believes there is “broad support” among NATO members for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance .

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken will meet his NATO counterparts, including the Turkish Foreign Minister, in Germany this weekend.

Leading American diplomat to Europe Karen Donfried told reporters ahead of Blinken’s trip that the United States continues to support Finland and Sweden’s prospective NATO membership. She said the US remains convinced that the alliance is more united than ever because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Finland’s President and Prime Minister on Thursday said they support rapid NATO membership, paving the way for the country to announce a decision in the coming days. Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party, led by Andersson, is expected to announce its decision on Sunday.

Asked about Erdogan’s comments during a press conference in Helsinki, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said: “We need some patience with this type of process. It can’t be done in one day. That’s all I can say at the moment. Let’s take the problems one step at a time.”

The Finnish minister said he is expected to speak to his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at the NATO meeting in Berlin at the weekend. Cavusoglu spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry did not provide any details.

Stoltenberg has said that should Finland and Sweden formally apply to join the world’s largest security organization, they would be welcomed with open arms.

The accession process could be completed in “a couple of weeks,” several NATO officials said, although it could take around six months for member countries to ratify the accession protocol.

Meanwhile, a report by the Swedish government on the changed security environment the Nordic country is facing following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine said Moscow would react negatively to Sweden’s NATO entry and would launch several countermeasures.

The Swedish government’s security policy analysis, which will serve as the basis for Andersson’s cabinet in deciding whether to join the western military alliance, was presented to Swedish lawmakers on Friday.

The report made no recommendation as to whether or not Sweden should attempt to join NATO. But it pointed out that NATO membership brings a number of advantages for Sweden – most notably the collective security offered by the 30-strong military alliance.

At the same time, it lists numerous tactics Russia is likely to use in retaliation, including cyberattacks, violations of Swedish airspace and threats to use nuclear weapons.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Matt Lee and Chris Megerian in Washington contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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