Turkey’s president has restated his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO – just hours after they said they would seek membership.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two Nordic nations should not bother sending delegations to convince Turkey, a key NATO member, of their bids, the BBC reports.
He says he is angered by what he sees as their willingness to host Kurdish militants.
Without the support of all NATO members, Sweden and Finland cannot join the military alliance.
On Monday, Sweden said Europe was living in a dangerous new reality, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the move by Finland and Sweden to join the 30-member military alliance did not threaten Moscow directly – but stressed that any expansion of military infrastructure would trigger a response from the Kremlin.
At a news conference on Monday, Erdogan said Turkey opposed the Finnish and the Swedish bids to join NATO, describing Sweden as a “hatchery” for terrorist organizations.
“Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organization. How can we trust them?” the Turkish president said.
Turkey accuses Finland and Sweden of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group it views as a terrorist organization, and followers of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
All member states must agree that a new country can join NATO. Erdogan said Swedish and Finnish delegations should not bother going to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, to convince it to approve their NATO bid.
His government has also pledged to block applications from countries that have imposed sanctions on it.
In 2019, both Nordic nations slapped an arms embargo on Ankara after its incursion into Syria.
Speaking in parliament in Helsinki on Monday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he was surprised by Turkey’s stance, but added that his government was not interested in “bargaining” with Erdogan.
Finland formally announced its bid to join NATO last week.
It was joined by neighbour Sweden on Saturday in a move that will end the Scandinavian country’s centuries-long military non-alignment.
“NATO will strengthen Sweden, Sweden will strengthen NATO,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said at a briefing on Monday.
She said a formal application could be handed in within several days and would be synchronized with Finland. NATO has signalled its willingness to admit the two countries.
However, Andersson stressed that Sweden did not want permanent NATO bases or nuclear weapons on its territory.
Norway, Denmark, and Iceland – all NATO members – immediately said they were ready to support Sweden and Finland by all means necessary if they came under attack.
The U.K., also a NATO member, has already given security guarantees to Sweden and Finland to cover the transition period.
Monday’s announcement by Sweden came as NATO began one of its biggest exercises in the Baltic region, involving some 15,000 troops. Named “Hedgehog”, the drills in Estonia involve 10 countries, including Finland and Sweden.