President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey will not support plans by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. The Turkish president said the Nordic countries were “home to too many terrorist organizations.”
Both Finland and Sweden have indicated their desire to join NATO in recent weeks. Finland officially announced that it would apply for membership on Thursday while Sweden is expected to soon follow.
In order to join, an agreement on their ascension must be unanimous, making Turkey’s reluctance a potential dealbreaker.
“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, according to Reuters. Erdogan also said it was a mistake to allow Greece to join in the past.
“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said without elaborating. “They are even members of the parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favor,” he added.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had said that Finland would be “warmly welcomed” and promised a “smooth and swift” accession process, which the Biden Administration has endorsed.
Turkey’s NATO hold-up largely stems from the Nordic nations’ support for Kurdish organizations that are deemed terrorist groups in Turkey. This includes the PKK and YPG, the latter of which was supported by the U.S. and other NATO countries during operations against ISIS in Syria.
NATO states that membership is open to any “European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area”.
The governments of Finland and Sweden have yet to comment on Erdogan’s announcement.
Turkey has criticized Russia’s invasion and has sent large numbers of armed drones to Ukraine. It has not backed Western sanctions on Moscow and seeks to maintain close trade, energy and tourism ties with Russia, however.