ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A senior Turkish official insisted after talks with Swedish and Finnish officials on Wednesday that Turkey would not agree to the two Nordic countries joining NATO unless specific steps were taken. taken to respond to Ankara’s objections.
“We have made it very clear that if Turkey’s security concerns are not met with concrete steps within a certain timeframe, the process will not progress,” Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference after the talks in Ankara. which lasted about five hours.
Kalin is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesperson and a senior presidential adviser.
Sweden and Finland have submitted their written requests for NATO membership last week, in a move representing one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s war in Ukraine who could rewrite the security map of Europe.
Turkey has said it opposes the countries’ membership of the Western military alliance, citing grievances over Sweden’s – and to a lesser extent Finland’s – perceived support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and entities other than Turkey consider as security threats.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by several of Turkey’s allies, has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The Turkish government also accuses Finland and Sweden of imposing arms export restrictions on Turkey and refusing to extradite suspected “terrorists”.
Turkey’s objections dampened hopes in Stockholm and Helsinki to quickly join NATO amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and put the credibility of the transatlantic alliance at stake. All 30 NATO members must agree on the admission of new members.
The Swedish and Finnish delegations met Kalin and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal. The Swedish delegation was led by Secretary of State Oscar Stenstrom, while Jukka Salovaara, the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, led the Finnish delegation, Turkish officials said.
Kalin said Turkey’s proposal to lift arms export limits was met with a “positive attitude” by the Swedish and Finnish delegations.
He added that the talks would continue once the Nordic governments respond to Turkey’s demands.
Turkey also expects the extradition of 28 “terrorism” suspects from Sweden and 12 from Finland, Kalin said, adding that there was “no legal or judicial basis” for not extraditing them. Turkish state media had previously said that Turkey had demanded the extradition of 33 suspects from the two countries.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said after a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel in Stockholm that her country wanted to “clarify” the claims that circulated during talks with Turkey.
“We don’t send money or weapons to terrorist organizations,” Andersson said.
In a press conference with the Estonian Prime Minister later on Wednesday, Andersson said that “in these times it is important to strengthen our security.”
She said Sweden had a “constructive dialogue” with Turkey and that Stockholm was “looking forward to sorting out issues, misunderstandings and questions”.
Michel, who is due to travel to Helsinki from Stockholm, said it was “a pivotal moment for Sweden” and “we fully support your choices”.
Turkey this week listed five “concrete assurances” it demanded from Sweden, including what it called an “end of political support for terrorism”, an “elimination of the source of funding for terrorism” and the “termination of arms support” banned the PKK and a Syrian Kurdish militia affiliated with it.
The demands also called for the lifting of arms sanctions against Turkey and for global cooperation against terrorism.
Turkey said it had sought the extradition of Kurdish activists and other suspects since 2017 but had not received a positive response from Stockholm. The Turkish government has claimed that Sweden has decided to provide $376 million to support Kurdish militants in 2023 and has provided them with military equipment, including anti-tank weapons and drones.
Finland has received nine extradition requests from Turkey in a recent period spanning more than three years, Finnish news agency STT reported on Wednesday, citing data from the Finnish Ministry of Justice. Two people were extradited while six of the requests were rejected. A decision was pending on another matter.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russia had left Sweden and Finland “no choice” but to join NATO.
She said Germany would support the two countries joining, calling it a “real gain” for the military alliance.
Andrew Wilks in Istanbul, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Jari Tanner in Helsinki contributed to this report.
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