Turkey’s foreign minister has described as unacceptable and outrageous the support potential new NATO members Sweden and Finland are giving to the PKK, a Kurdish rebel group designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies .
The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has waged a rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, and Ankara’s criticism of Sweden and Finland have potentially complicated NATO’s enlargement plans.
The problem is that these two countries openly support and engage with the PKK and the YPG [Peoples Protection Units]Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday upon arriving in Berlin for a meeting with his NATO counterparts.
These are terrorist organizations that attack our troops every day, Cavusoglu said.
Therefore, it is unacceptable and outrageous that our friends and allies support this terrorist organization, he said.
These are the issues we need to discuss with our NATO allies, as well as with those countries [Sweden and Finland].
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics said NATO would find a sensible solution to accepting Finland and Sweden as new members despite Turkish concerns.
We have had these discussions within the alliance many times before. I think we have always found sensible solutions, and we will find one this time too, he told reporters in Berlin.
The membership of Sweden and Finland is of paramount importance for the whole alliance, and ultimately also for Turkey, he said.
Al Jazeeras Step Vaessen, reporting from Berlin, said Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO is expected in the coming days.
It’s a big historic moment for the two nations that have remained neutral for so long, Vaessen said, adding that Russia’s action in Ukraine has pushed them towards NATO.
All 30 NATO members must approve their application and the acceptance process is expected to take several months, Vaessen said, explaining that it is during the so-called gray period, between application and membership, that is of most concern. for both countries. During this period, Sweden and Finland will not have the collective defense protection of NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all, she said. .
President Recep Tayyip Erdogans’ spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said earlier on Saturday that Turkey has not closed the door on Sweden and Finland joining NATO, but negotiations are needed with the Nordic countries and a crackdown on what Ankara considers terrorist activities.
Turkey considers the YPG, US-backed Kurdish fighters based in Syria, to be a terrorist organization. Ankara considers YPG to be a PKK affiliate.
We don’t close the door. But we are essentially raising this issue as a national security issue for Turkey, Kalin, who is also the president’s top foreign policy adviser, told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.
Kalin said the PKK raises funds and recruits in Europe and that its presence is strong, open and recognized in Sweden, in particular.
What needs to be done is clear: they must stop allowing the existence of outlets, activities, organizations, individuals and other types of PKK presence in these countries, he said. he declares.
We’ll see how things go. But this is the first point that we want to bring to the attention of all allies, as well as to the Swedish authorities, he added.
Erdogan surprised NATO members and the two Nordic countries by saying on Friday that it was not possible for Turkey to support the enlargement of the military alliance while Finland and Sweden are home to numerous terrorist organizations. .
Any country wishing to join NATO needs the unanimous support of member states. The United States and other member states have tried to clarify Ankara’s position on Finland and Sweden.
Sweden and its closest military partner Finland have so far stayed out of NATO, which was founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Both countries are wary of clashing with Moscow, but their security concerns have grown since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Mutual point of view
Turkey, NATO’s second-largest army, has officially backed enlargement since joining the US-led alliance 70 years ago.
Turkey criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, helped arm kyiv and tried to facilitate talks between the sides, but opposed sanctions against Moscow.
When asked if Turkey risks being too transactional in times of war, and when Finnish and Swedish public opinion favors NATO membership, Kalin replied: if they [Finland and Sweden] have a public concerned about their own national security, we have a public that is also concerned about our own security, he said.
Kalin said Russia’s strong criticism of Finland and Sweden over their plans to join NATO was not a factor in Turkey’s position.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart on Saturday that joining NATO would be a mistake.
Putin stressed that ending the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security, the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday.
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