Turkey will not change its stance on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids until they take clear, concrete and decisive steps in the fight against terrorism, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said
Speaking during his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) parliamentary group meeting in the capital Ankara, Erdoğan said that Turkey will not support Sweden in its NATO bid while terrorist organizations act freely in the Nordic country, adding that Ankara will not let the blood of “martyrs” be spilled.
“While the fallen of our country are tearing our hearts out on a daily basis, no one can expect concessions from us on this issue. Let me underline that Turkey has no time to lose with expectations or ambivalent remarks regarding the issue,” he stated.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said Wednesday that Ankara appreciates NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg’s efforts to address Turkey’s security concerns.
He reiterated that Turkey conveyed its demands to Sweden and Finland with a formal written letter and is still waiting for a concrete response.
Later in the day, Erdoğan spoke with the NATO chief over the phone and reiterated the steps required to address Ankara’s “legitimate” concerns over the NATO bids of Finland and Sweden.
According to a statement by the Communications Directorate, Erdoğan told Stoltenberg that no progress can be achieved without seeing “concrete steps” by both Finland and Sweden that would meet Turkey’s “rightful expectations.”
The steps might include written commitments to a paradigm shift in fighting terrorism and defense industry cooperation, it said.
Meanwhile, Stoltenberg said on Twitter that he held a “constructive conversation” with Erdoğan ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid that will be held on June 29-30.
“We discussed the importance of addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on the fight against terrorism and making progress in the NATO accession process for Finland and Sweden,” he added.
After decades of military nonalignment, Russia’s war in Ukraine pushed Sweden and Finland to apply to join the Western defense alliance in May. But they have faced resistance from Turkey, which has vetoed their entry into the alliance, citing their support to terrorist groups, including the PKK and its Syrian wing, the YPG.
While the two Nordic countries have said talks would continue to resolve the dispute, Ankara said it has not received any responses to its demands, including stopping support for groups Turkey considers terrorists, lifting arms embargoes on Ankara and extraditing suspects it seeks.
Any bid to join NATO requires backing from each of its 30 members. Turkey, which has been a NATO ally for over 70 years, has said it will not change its view unless the Nordic countries take “concrete steps” about its concerns. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the security concerns of all NATO allies should be addressed.
The NATO chief on Tuesday said he welcomes the steps taken to address Turkey’s concerns, including the fight against the PKK terror group.
“I welcome the serious steps already taken to address Turkey’s concerns. Our dialogue continues, to find a united way forward,” Stoltenberg said at a joint news conference following the meeting of the seven NATO allies in The Hague.
On the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of this month, Stoltenberg said the gathering would be “historic and transformative.”
Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on the same day stressed the importance of dialogue and ongoing negotiations with Turkey.
Andersson met with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store in the Swedish city of Sodertalje to discuss regional issues, including Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids.
“We are acting together with Finland. I look forward to continuing the dialogue with Turkey until the problem is solved,” said Andersson, speaking at a joint press conference after the trilateral meeting.
Marin said it is crucial to reach a solution ahead of a NATO summit that will be held at the end of this month in Madrid.
“There is momentum now. It is important that we move forward in this process. We take Turkey’s problems seriously and continue to engage in dialogue,” she said.
Marin said that Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications could stall if an agreement with Turkey, which is currently blocking their bids, is not reached before the summit this month.
“I think it’s very important to go forward at this stage. If we don’t solve these issues before Madrid, there is a risk that the situation will freeze,” Marin said, referring to the upcoming NATO summit in Madrid, scheduled to begin on June 28.
“We don’t know for how long but it might freeze for a while,” Marin told reporters during a visit to Sweden.
Marin stressed that they were taking Turkey’s concerns seriously and wanted to address them “and if there are some misunderstandings, to correct those.”
At the same time, she also noted that Turkey had previously said the countries would be welcomed into NATO, but that Ankara changed its tune once the membership applications were made.
“Of course, we are taking all the issues very seriously and are having talks, but I also think that it’s also Turkey’s responsibility to try to find solutions at this stage,” Marin said.
Stoltenberg said Monday, during a visit to Sweden, that NATO was working “hard and actively” to resolve Turkey’s concerns “as soon as possible.”
Stoltenberg has previously said Sweden and Finland would be welcomed into NATO “with open arms,” and expected the Turkey issue to be resolved before the upcoming NATO summit.
But speaking in Finland on Sunday he conceded that the dispute may drag on, saying “the summit in Madrid was never a deadline.”
The issue was also discussed during a phone call between Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Stoltenberg on Tuesday.
In late May, Turkey hosted consultations with Swedish and Finnish delegations in Ankara on their NATO applications. Erdoğan said the meetings had not been “at the desired level.”
Ankara’s main demands are for the Nordic countries to halt support for the PKK/YPG in their territory and to lift their bans on sales of some arms to Turkey. Ankara says the arms ban against an ally is inappropriate for prospective members of the security pact.