Turkiye: NATO summit ‘not deadline’ for Finland, Sweden talks
Turkiye does not consider next week’s NATO summit as a final deadline for resolving its objections to Finland and Sweden joining the Western defense alliance, a senior official said.
“The Madrid NATO summit is not the deadline, so our negotiations will continue,” Presidential spokesperson and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s top foreign policy adviser Ibrahim Kalın told reporters after talks in Brussels.
After decades of military nonalignment, Russia’s war in Ukraine pushed Sweden and Finland to apply to join NATO in May. But they have faced resistance from Turkey, which has vetoed their entry into the alliance, citing their support of terrorist groups, including the PKK and its Syrian wing, the YPG, and arms embargoes on Ankara.
Kalın and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal traveled to Brussels on Sunday for discussions that NATO leaders had hoped would pave the way for the Nordic states’ formal approval to join the bloc at the Madrid summit.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met representatives from the three countries to try to make progress on the membership applications.
While he described the talks as “constructive,” Turkey made it clear there was still work to be done.
Kalın said Ankara was expecting Sweden, especially, to take immediate steps regarding actions by the PKK in its country, and that any progress on the Nordic membership bids “now depends on the direction and speed at which these countries will take steps.”
“The existence of terrorist organizations must end in those countries. That is what we expect both from Finland and Sweden,” he noted.
Kalın also voiced Ankara’s expectations regarding the lifting of direct or indirect weapons freezes imposed on Turkey.
Sweden and Finland had imposed arms export embargoes on Turkey after its military operation seeking to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates of the YPG in 2019.
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 Finland and Sweden take “concrete steps” about its concerns.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called the meeting “constructive” while conceding that Turkey’s “legitimate” concerns had still not been fully addressed.
“Turkey has legitimate security concerns over terrorism that we need to address,” Stoltenberg said. “So we will continue our talks on Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership, and I look forward to finding a way forward as soon as possible.”