Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he opposes plans by Finland, and possibly Sweden, to apply to join NATO, a request that must be unanimously endorsed by the 27 countries of the Western military alliance to be approved.
Erdogan’s comments on Friday were the first jarring note in the fallout from Thursday’s announcement that Finnish officials had decided to abandon the country’s longstanding neutral stance in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Top NATO leaders in Brussels and many European NATO powers were quick to welcome the move, predicting a period of quick and easy access.
But Erdogan complained to reporters in Istanbul on Friday about what he said was the willingness of both applicants to give “terrorists” a home, in particular members of the Kurdish separatist PKK who have waged a long and bloody insurrection. against the Turkish government. .
“We are currently following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel good about it,” Erdogan said. “… The Scandinavian countries are like guest houses for terrorist organizations. To go further, they also have seats in their parliaments.”
Sweden has one of the largest ethnic Kurdish communities outside the Middle East, while Finland has a smaller Kurdish minority.
Finnish officials appeared to be taking Erdogan’s comments in stride, noting that this week’s Helsinki decision is just the beginning of a long process of joining NATO and with individual members. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, at the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin on Friday, told the Reuters news agency that the process required “patience” from all parties.
“We need a little bit of patience in this kind of process, it won’t happen in a day,” Haavisto said.
“…Let’s take things one step at a time.”
Russia has sharply criticized Finland’s NATO decision and has vowed unspecified retaliation if its neighbor formally joins the Western alliance.