Finnish president ‘optimistic’ of NATO deal with Turkey

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Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Tuesday he was ‘optimistic’ Finland and Sweden would be able to secure Turkey’s support for their NATO membership bids, despite Ankara’s last-minute objections, Agence France-Presse reported.

“I am confident that with the help of constructive talks, the situation will be resolved”, Niinisto told Sweden’s parliament in a speech, later adding during a question period: “I’m optimistic”.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to block the alliance’s expansion, accusing Helsinki and Stockholm of harboring militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Sweden has suspended any arms sales to Turkey since 2019 over Ankara’s military operation in neighboring Syria.

“We will not say ‘yes’ to those (countries) who apply sanctions to Turkey to join security organization NATO,” Erdoğan said Monday.

“Neither of the countries has a clear stance against terror organizations,” Erdoğan said.

Any NATO membership bid must be unanimously approved by the alliance’s 30 members.

Sweden and Finland have been caught off-guard by Ankara’s objections, with both saying they had previously received positive signals from all NATO countries.

Niinisto said that during a conversation with Erdoğan a month ago, the Turkish leader said his country “was favorable” to Finland’s bid.

And then “this past week he said ‘not favorable’.”

A diplomatic source said Turkey blocked a NATO declaration on Monday in favor of Sweden and Finland’s membership and that Erdoğan alone took the decision.

Sweden and Finland have sent delegations to Turkey to meet with Turkish officials.

“They say they will come to Turkey on Monday. Will they come to persuade us? Excuse us, but they shouldn’t bother,” Erdoğan responded.

The two Nordic countries have failed to respond positively to Turkey’s 33 extradition requests over the past five years, Turkish justice ministry sources told the official Anadolu news agency on Monday.

The agency reported Turkey wanted individuals that were either accused of having links to Kurdish militants or belonging to a movement blamed for the 2016 attempted overthrow of Erdoğan.

Turkey has rebuked Stockholm especially for showing what it describes as leniency towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

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