Erdoğan: Turkey “is not positive” about Sweden and Finland joining NATO | NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has questioned Finland and Sweden joining NATO, saying he does not have a positive view of the two Nordic nations joining the alliance military after Russia invaded Ukraine.

His remarks came as a Swedish parliamentary security review said membership would reduce the risk of conflict in northern Europe and a day after neighboring Finland said it was aiming to join the alliance.

Finland and Sweden, although both NATO partners, have long viewed membership as an unnecessary provocation by Russia, their powerful eastern neighbor. However, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine led to a radical rethinking of their security policy.

NATO membership would require ratification by all existing members, and Erdoğan remarked to reporters after leaving Friday prayers in Istanbul that Turkey would not welcome either.

“We are currently following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we do not have a positive view on this,” he said.

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and its membership remains the cornerstone of its foreign policy towards Western countries. The comments appeared to be directed against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, even though they appeared to encompass all communities of Kurdish origin in Scandinavia.

“We don’t want to make any mistakes,” he added. “Scandinavian countries are like guesthouses for terrorist organizations. To go even further, they also have seats in their parliaments.

Sweden has a large Kurdish diaspora, and prominent Swedish citizens of Kurdish origin currently have six MPs. Turkish authorities have provided no evidence for claims that the parliamentarians have links to the PKK or similar groups outside Sweden.

Finland’s Kurdish population was estimated at just over 15,000 in 2020, or less than 0.3% of the population.

On Friday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto appealed for patience and called for a phased approach in response to Turkey. “We need a little patience in this type of process, it doesn’t happen overnight… Let’s take it step by step,” he told reporters.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö said on Thursday that the country “must apply for NATO membership without delay”. Government confirmation of the decision is expected on Sunday, with parliamentary approval likely early next week.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats will also decide whether to formally approve NATO membership on Sunday and are expected to drop decades of opposition to membership. Parliament will debate security issues on Monday.

The security review released on Friday did not make a recommendation, but said developing defense alliances outside of existing structures was unrealistic.

“Sweden’s membership in NATO would raise the threshold for military conflict and thus have a conflict-preventing effect in Northern Europe,” said the country’s Foreign Minister, Ann Linde, presenting the conclusions of the report.

“The most important consequence of Sweden’s membership would be that Sweden would be part of the collective security of NATO and would be included in the security guarantees in accordance with Article 5 [of the alliance’s founding treaty],” she says.

Article 5, the cornerstone of the US-led defensive alliance, states that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all and commits its current 30 members to mutual defense in the event of an attack. armed attack.

The Swedish report, which is due to be debated in parliament on Monday, notes that “within the framework of the current cooperation, there is no guarantee that Sweden would be helped if it were the target of a serious threat or attack”.

The Expressen daily reported that a special cabinet meeting will be called after Monday’s parliamentary debate, with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson likely to send Sweden’s NATO membership application by the end of the day. of the day.

Not all members of the ruling Social Democratic Party are automatically in favour. “I think everyone would have wanted more time for this, because it’s a huge problem,” Stefan Löfven, prime minister from 2014 to 2021, told Agence France-Presse.

Moscow has previously warned that Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership would force it to “restore the balance” by strengthening its defenses in the Baltic, including deploying nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, between Poland and Lithuania.

Linde noted that Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership would be seen as “negative” by Russia. She said neither country expected a “conventional military attack” in response, but added that “armed aggression cannot be ruled out”.

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said on Friday: “If Sweden chooses to apply for NATO membership, there is a risk of a reaction from Russia. Let me make it clear that in such a case, we are ready to face any counter-response.

Public support for NATO membership in Finland, which shares an 810-mile (1,300 km) border with Russia, has more than tripled to around 76% since Russia’s attack on Ukraine , and increased to around 60% in Sweden.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the two countries would be “welcomed with open arms” and the process of joining would be swift, although formal approval by all alliance members could take several months.

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