Turkey clarifies position on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bid

Ankara is “not closing door” to the countries, but concerns about “terrorism” must be addressed, Turkish presidential aide said

Turkey is not seeking to outright shoot down the accession of Sweden and Finland to the US-led NATO alliance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Saturday. Nonetheless, Ankara’s concerns about organizations it deems to be “terrorist” that are operating in these countries must be addressed, the official said.

“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Kalin clarified.

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Key NATO member against Sweden and Finland in bloc

The official further elaborated on the position voiced by Erdogan on Friday, when the president said Ankara could not support the bids of Finland and Sweden, which are “like guesthouses for terrorist organizations.” To get into the alliance, a potential member must get the support of all NATO member countries.

Kalin explained that Ankara is particularly concerned about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization in Turkey, as well as in the EU and the US. The issue relates primarily to Sweden, the official went on.

“What needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organizations, individuals and other types of presence to…exist in those countries,” Kalin said. “Of course we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with [our] Swedish counterparts.”

NATO membership is always a process. We will see how things go. But this is the first point that we want to bring to the attention of all the allies, as well as to Swedish authorities.

The PKK has been an enemy of Turkish authorities for decades already, with the group waging low-intensity insurgency in Kurdish-populated areas of the country’s southeast. Ankara also regards Kurdish-led militias in neighboring Iraq and Syria, including the US-propped Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as offshoots of the PKK and treats them as “terrorists” as well. Turkey has repeatedly staged incursions into those neighboring countries to fight Kurdish militants over the past few years.

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