ISTANBUL – Turkey’s president has told reporters that he still intends to block Finland and Sweden from joining NATO.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week’s meetings with the Finnish and Swedish delegations did not “reach the level expected”, noting that nothing had been done to ease Turkey’s security concerns.
“As long as Tayyip Erdogan is the leader of the Turkish Republic, we cannot say ‘yes’ to countries that support terrorists joining NATO,” he told reporters on a plane after visiting Azerbaijan on Saturday said, according to the Daily Free Press. .
Erdogan referred to an interview by Swedish state TV with Saleh Muslim, a member of the Syrian Kurdish government in northeastern Syria, on the night of the delegation meeting. He took this as evidence that Sweden supports Syrian Kurdish militants, which Turkey sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish group that has led an insurgency against Turkey since 1984.
“They are neither honest nor sincere,” Erdogan said, vowing not to allow countries that “hold terrorists in their arms and feed terrorists in their laps.” He also accused Germany, France and the Netherlands of making the same “mistake” of supporting terrorism.
The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are the backbone of the U.S.-led effort to fight the Islamic State group. Turkey has been fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey and northern Iraq since 1984 and has stepped up operations there. Ankara also led a cross-border operation into Syria to push the YPG away from the border, saying they were one with the PKK.
All NATO members must ratify the two Nordic countries’ historic accession to NATO, fueled by panic over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, which has the coalition’s second-largest military, said it would not allow them to join unless measures were taken, including lifting restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.
Erdogan added that he would speak by phone with Russian and Ukrainian leaders on Monday.
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