Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has received criticism from both opposition and allied party leaders after suddenly agreeing on Monday to allow Sweden to join the NATO alliance, local media reported.
The president has also been criticized by senior Russian figures since his move set the stage for the allies to showcase their unity at a summit focused on securing support for Ukraine’s battle against Russia’s invasion.
Turkey has been blocking Sweden’s membership bid, accusing Stockholm of harboring Kurdish activists and political dissidents Ankara regards as terrorists.
After meeting with Erdoğan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared it had been a “historic day” when the Turkish leader agreed to back Stockholm’s application.
Sweden’s bid must still be approved by the Turkish parliament, but Erdoğan agreed to push for its ratification.
Speaking about the development during his party’s group meeting on Tuesday, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said Erdoğan had a sudden change of heart after a phone call from US President Joe Biden.
“Turkey said it wouldn’t accept Sweden’s membership [in NATO]. Sweden did not back down. What happened, then? Biden phoned Erdoğan. Erdoğan did a 180. … Why do you deny today what you said yesterday? This is not how a state is run,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and an ally of Erdoğan, also criticized the president’s move to give a green light to Sweden joining NATO during his party’s group meeting, emphasizing that Turkey’s reasons for objecting to Sweden’s membership are “right and legitimate.”
“How will we come together with a country that embraces and tolerates terrorist organizations that directly threaten our national security?” Bahçeli said, describing Sweden as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’s “cave” in Europe.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK.
Sweden has already toughened its counterterrorism legislation and lifted an arms embargo it had imposed on Turkey after Erdoğan launched a unilateral incursion into northern Syria in 2019.
The Swedish government last month also agreed to extradite a man convicted of drug trafficking who had supported the PKK.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said NATO’s expansion is “one of the reasons that led to the current situation.”
“It looks like the Europeans don’t understand their mistake,” Peskov said, warning against putting Ukraine on a fast track for NATO membership.
He also commented on Erdoğan’s request that the European Union resume long-stalled membership talks with Ankara in return for backing Sweden’s NATO candidacy, saying that Europeans don’t want Turkey in Europe and that Ankara shouldn’t be under any illusions on the issue.