President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday said he was talking to Western leaders about Turkey’s objections to NATO membership for Sweden and Finland, which he accuses of sheltering militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Agence France-Presse reported.
Russia’s war in Ukraine in February has shifted political opinion in both Nordic countries in favor of joining the Western military alliance.
Membership requires the consent of all 30 existing members, but Turkey is putting a wrench in the works.
Erdoğan has accused Sweden in particular of leniency towards militants of the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU, as well as members of a group inspired by US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, which is blamed by Ankara for an attempted 2016 coup.
“I spoke with the Dutch prime minister today,” Erdoğan said, adding that he was due speak on the phone with the British and Finnish leaders on Saturday.
“We will also speak with [NATO chief Jens] Stoltenberg,” he said. “We will continue to hold these talks so as not to cut the telephone diplomacy between us.”
“We cannot say ‘yes’ to [Sweden and Finland] … joining NATO, a security organization,” Erdoğan said.
He said Turkey was a “victim” and had all the documents and information about “these terror organizations.”
Erdoğan this week had said that Turkey had requested the extradition of 30 “terrorists” from Sweden but that it was turned down by Stockholm.
On Friday he said that if NATO was sensitive to Turkey’s concerns, it should not extend membership to the two countries.
Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.
But the two nations both moved ahead amid shock over their giant neighbor’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join NATO.
A delegation from Finland and Sweden had asked to visit Turkey on Monday, but Erdoğan turned down the request, saying “They shouldn’t bother.”
On Thursday Stoltenberg said Turkey’s “concerns” were being addressed to find “an agreement on how to move forward.”