Türkiye: Support of Sweden, Finland to terrorists harms NATO
Arms restrictions imposed on Ankara also harm alliance, says Turkish defense minister
The Turkish defense minister on Friday said Sweden and Finland provided political, financial, and military support to terror groups, threatening not only Türkiye but also NATO.
Speaking to reporters following a two-day NATO gathering of defense chiefs in Brussels, Hulusi Akar addressed hot-button issues, including Turkish concerns over the possible membership of Sweden and Finland to the military alliance.
Akar said the arms restrictions imposed on Türkiye also harmed NATO and did not comply with the spirit of the alliance.
He noted that his country seized numerous Swedish-made AT-4 anti-tank weapons during its anti-terrorism operations in northern Syria and Iraq, and this evidence was shared with officials at the NATO meeting.
“On the one hand, they say ‘let us grow stronger and unite against all sorts of threats against NATO,’ but on the other hand, an arms embargo is imposed on Türkiye. Plus, unlimited support is provided for the terror groups,” he said.
Stressing that Türkiye is the only NATO country fighting terrorism on multiple fronts, he said his country is the final frontier preventing the spread of terrorism to Europe.
“As Türkiye, we are an active and constructive member sharing values and responsibilities of NATO,” Akar said, and noted that the Turkish government favored the expansion of the alliance, depending on the respect paid to his country’s sensitivities.
The alliance is an organization of security, and terrorism is one of the primary areas of cooperation, he stressed, saying the fight against terror elements is of great importance for the sake of regional and global stability.
“An understanding ignoring terrorists that are targeting a member state, martyring its security forces, and slaughtering its innocent citizens is incompatible with friendship and the spirit of the alliance,” he reiterated.
Akar also said it is simply “unacceptable” that the terrorists, after conducting attacks against the Turkish army in northern Iraq and Syria, fled the region and took shelter in these countries.
Sweden and Finland, amid their NATO bids, are under pressure from Türkiye to end their support for the PKK/YPG terror group, with Ankara saying the bloc is a security alliance and that any potential members must take a clear stance against terrorism.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK — listed as a terror organization by Türkiye, the US, and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK terror group’s Syrian offshoot.
Türkiye remains in contact with both Ukrainian and Russian authorities and the UN to find ways to address the obstacles hampering the grain exports and the humanitarian crisis looming over the region, according to Akar.
“An urgent cease-fire and de-escalation are essential due to the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The rise of tension harms everyone,” he said.
Akar further said the involved parties, slowly but steadily, made some progress to address the problems regarding grain exports, and a planned meeting with the participation of Ukraine, Russia, the UN, and Türkiye had the potential to quicken the process.
“We continue our facilitator role to solve the problem,” he stressed.
Akar also warned that the Montreux Convention should not be abused in any way regarding grain exports from the Black Sea ports amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Türkiye does not want the balance established under the principle of territorial ownership and domination of littoral countries to be disturbed as this could potentially lead to an out-of-control scenario and turn the region of the Black Sea into an area of competition.
Akar, during talks with the Greek defense chief at the NATO meeting, said Ankara seeks to have ties based on peace, prosperity, and tranquility with all its neighbors.
Referring to the recently growing tension with Greece, he said the Greek government has started to procure arms, which puts a heavy economic toll on the country’s economy and its people, while Türkiye seeks to sort out issues through peaceful means.
“It is vital that the communication channels are kept open to resolve the current problems,” he said. “Focusing on a positive agenda and de-escalation will contribute to both bilateral ties and regional cooperation.”