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Turkey won’t allow ‘terrorism supporters’ join NATO

Ankara will not approve the two Nordic states’ bids to join NATO until they properly address Turkey’s concerns over their alleged support of terrorist organizations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated, promising not to repeat “past mistakes.” 

“For as long as Tayyip Erdogan is the head of the Republic of Turkey, we definitely cannot say ‘yes’ to countries which support terrorism entering NATO,” the leader told reporters upon his return from a trip to Azerbaijan, according to state media reports on Sunday.

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Delegations from Sweden and Finland met with their Turkish counterparts in Ankara for talks last week, following their joint applications to join the NATO military alliance. Their accession requires the unanimous consent of all 30 member states, and Turkey has threatened to block the process unless the two countries crack down on groups it considers terrorists.

“They are not honest or sincere,” Erdogan said about the talks’ results so far. “They don’t take necessary steps, they are still allowing the terrorists to freely walk in the streets of Stockholm and provide security to them with their police.”

“We cannot repeat the same mistake we did in the past towards these countries that shelter and feed these terrorists,” he added. He referred to a separate long-running feud with Athens over Cyprus, recalling how in 1980 Ankara “allowed Greece to return” after its partial withdrawal from NATO.

READ MORE: NATO chief names conditions for Finland and Sweden

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg previously acknowledged that Finland and Sweden are unlikely to become NATO candidate members, unless they fulfill Turkey’s demands. “No country has suffered as much from terrorist attacks as Turkey,” Stoltenberg on Thursday, adding that Turkey is an “important ally and when an ally has concerns it should be discussed and the problem resolved.”

Turkey demands that Sweden and Finland lift arms export restrictions on Turkey, and extradite people linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Gulen movement (FETO). While Sweden and Finland both consider the PKK a terrorist organization, Ankara wants the same designation applied to the YPG and PYD, the Kurdish military and political groups in Syria, respectively.

The two Nordic states both decided to break with their history of neutrality on May 15, citing Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as motivating them to join NATO. Their membership bids were welcomed by Washington and its European NATO allies, however, Turkey and Croatia have threatened to obstruct the applications unless their national security concerns are addressed.

READ MORE: Putin to hold talks with Turkey’s Erdogan

Moscow has called Sweden and Finland’s applications a “serious mistake with long-lasting ramifications” but has stated that their NATO aspirations were still less concerning than those of Ukraine, whose potential territorial claims could pose “huge risks for the entire continent” if it were accepted into the bloc.

Turkey has taken a neutral stance in the conflict, maintaining ties with both Ukraine and Russia and refusing to join Western sanctions against Moscow and striving to assume the role of a mediator in the conflict. The Turkish president had announced talks with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, to “to encourage the two parties to maintain channels of dialogue and diplomacy.”

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