On Wednesday, NATO diplomats failed to reach a consensus on whether to start early membership talks with Finland and Sweden after the Nordic countries formally handed in their applications. Officials wouldn’t say publicly who objected, but sources told Middle East Eye Turkey blocked the start of the talks.
Turkey is the only NATO member that has loudly objected to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. Ankara’s opposition is over the Nordic country’s alleged ties to the PKK, a Kurdish militant group Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization, and over an arms export restriction that Sweden and Finland imposed on Turkey.
Three Turkish officials told Bloomberg that in order for Ankara to drop its objection, Finland and Sweden must denounce the PKK, which the US and EU also have designated as a terrorist group. Turkey wants Helsinki and Stockholm to crack down on suspected PKK members Ankara says are in their territory.
Turkey also wants the Nordic nations to lift the arms export restrictions, which were imposed in 2019 when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an offensive in northeast Syria. “We cannot say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey, on joining NATO,” Erdogan said on Monday.
Turkey also has gripes with current NATO members, although the Turkish officials said they wouldn’t use Sweden and Finland to negotiate other issues. Chief among Turkey’s problems with the alliance is the US sanctions imposed over its purchase of S-400 Russian missile defense systems. The US also kicked Turkey out of the F-35 program over the purchase, which Ankara wishes to rejoin.