Erdogan playing hardball with NATO as Turkey blocks talks with Sweden and Finland

NATO: US Ambassador confident on Finland and Sweden joining

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Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that Turkey’s expectations were not met by documents from Sweden adding that any negotiations on the northern European countries’ bid to join NATO would have to address Turkey’s demands first.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the alliance last month, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their applications have faced unexpected opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it deems is Swedish support of Kurdish militants and by a previous decision to withdraw arms export licenses to Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the two countries “incubators” for terrorists and accused Sweden of failing to find members of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) allegedly hiding in the country.

He said on Wednesday: “Until Sweden and Finland show clear, concrete and decisive steps we will definitely not change our stance on the Nato issue.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that Sweden has taken important steps to meet Turkey’s demands for approving Stockholm’s NATO membership application.

“I welcome that Sweden has already started to change its counter-terrorism legislation and that Sweden will ensure that the legal framework for arms export will reflect the future status as a NATO member with new commitments to allies,” Mr Stoltenberg said during a press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“These are two important steps to address concerns that Turkey has raised.”

Ms Andersson said Sweden had changed its terrorism laws and was in the process of further tightening.

“From the first of July we will also have even stronger legislation when it comes to the fight against terrorism. So here there are no questions about how strongly Sweden sees (on) terrorism and that we are willing to contribute to the fight against terrorism,” she said.

Mr Stoltenberg also said the aim was to have Sweden and Finland join NATO “as soon as possible” and that it was inconceivable that NATO allies would not come to Sweden’s defence if it were attacked.

The NATO chief defended Turkey’s concerns over the issues last week.

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He said: “These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, it’s about weapons exports.”

He said Turkey was a key ally for the alliance due to its strategic location on the Black Sea between Europe and the Middle East, and cited the support it has provided to Ukraine since Russia sent troops into its neighbour on February 24.

Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation”.

“We have to remember and understand that no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkiye,” Mr Stoltenberg said, using the Turkish pronunciation of the country’s name, as preferred by Turkey and its President Tayyip Erdogan.

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