Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he opposes plans for Finland and possibly Sweden to apply to join NATO – an application that must be unanimously endorsed by the 27 countries in the Western military alliance to be approved.
Mr Erdogan’s comments on Friday were the first jarring to announce on Thursday that Finnish officials had decided to abandon the country’s longstanding neutrality in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Top NATO leaders in Brussels and many European NATO powers were quick to welcome the move, predicting a quick and easy accession period.
But Mr Erdogan complained to reporters in Istanbul on Friday that both applicants he said were willing to offer homes to “terrorists”, particularly members of the separatist Kurdish Kurdistan Workers’ Party, who have been engaged in a long-running dispute with the Turkish government bloody uprising. .
“We are currently watching developments in Sweden and Finland, but we are not optimistic about that,” Mr Erdogan said. “… Scandinavian countries are like hotels for terrorist groups. Going further, they also have seats in parliament.”
Sweden has one of the largest Kurdish communities outside the Middle East, while Finland has a smaller Kurdish minority.
Finnish officials appeared to take Mr Erdogan’s comments in stride, noting that Helsinki’s decision this week was just the beginning of a long process of joining NATO and individual member states. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Havestow told Reuters on Friday when meeting G-7 foreign ministers in Berlin that the process required “patient” from all sides.
“We need some patience in this type of process, it doesn’t happen in a day,” Mr Havestow said.
“…let’s solve the problem step by step.”
Russia has strongly criticized Finland’s NATO decision and has vowed unspecified retaliation if its neighbor formally joins the Western alliance.