Turkey halted an initial vote on whether to begin Sweden and Finland’s accession negotiations for NATO membership on Wednesday, during an ambassadors’ meeting in Brussels, Financial Times reported.
Ankara has reportedly posed a list of conditions to be met before it considers backing the two Nordic countries’, and stopped the initial vote with a dissenting opinion when they were not met. Among the demands are further criminalisation of Kurdish organisations, re-admission to the F-35 fighter jet programme, and lifting of U.S. sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of S-400s.
The veto decision also kickstarted an intense bout of diplomacy between the United States, Turkey, Finland and Sweden. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that Ankara and Washington would “work through that process (of Sweden and Finland’s applications) as allies and as partners”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, at the same press conference, said the two countries were “aiming to overcome the differences through dialogue and diplomacy”.
“We understand (Finland and Sweden’s) security concerns, but Turkey’s security concerns should also be met,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Stockholm and Helsinki decided to apply to NATO, ending their policy of military neutrality upon Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Any expansion of NATO requires approval from all its current members.
Asked about what he thought about Sweden and Finland becoming NATO members, Turkish president Erdoğan had said on Friday that Turkey did not feel positive about it, as the two countries had long been safe havens for terrorist groups like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“We asked Sweden for 30 terrorists, they said they would not give them up,” Erdoğan said in a speech at parliament on Wednesday. “You won’t hand over terrorists but you want to join NATO. We cannot say yes to stripping off security from a security organisation. That mistake was made once with Greece.”
Pro-government newspaper Sabah also published on Wednesday a list of 10 demands, which focus on further crackdowns on Kurdish organisations and politicians. Terrorist organisations should not be allowed to hold conferences in allied countries’ parliaments, Ankara reportedly said, while also calling for an end to “open financial support” for Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) -which was integral in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS)- and “so-called NGOs which engage in activities and fundraising against Turkey”.
Since the 1980 military coup, Kurds and other dissidents in Turkey have sought refuge in Sweden, where they have been able to develop a rich array of cultural and political projects. Political asylum seekers in the country have formed a small but significant diaspora community, contributing to the progressive politics in the country as well as pursuing their own interests.