Sweden’s bid to join NATO will be rejected at the Vilnius summit due to its failure to address pro-Kurdish demonstrations in Stockholm, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced, prior to the diplomatic meeting in Ankara among NATO representatives to discuss Sweden’s path towards membership of the North Atlantic bloc.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had been trying to persuade Turkey to accept Sweden’s membership in the military alliance.
“Unfortunately, just at the time that Stoltenberg was expressing these views to us, terrorists were again demonstrating in the streets in Sweden,” stated Erdoğan. He emphasised that such activities in Sweden made it impossible for Turkey to view Sweden’s NATO bid positively.
Erdoğan said that his recently appointed chief foreign policy advisor Akif Cağatay Kılıç would convey the message to the country representatives that “This is the opinion of our president, you definitely shouldn’t expect anything different in Vilnius.”
Erdoğan has even suggested that Sweden take unconstitutional actions to crack down on the Kurdish community, stating, “It’s not a constitutional matter, it’s not a law matter. … What are the police for? The job of the police is to intervene with these terrorists. Did we enter the lairs of these terrorists based on the constitution? Based on the law? No. Rights are already granted to police in laws and constitutions. Use these rights.”
The demonstrations that provoked Ankara’s anger were against Sweden’s NATO membership and involved the display of PKK flags and portraits of Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader. This issue has been a significant obstacle to Sweden’s NATO aspirations since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey possesses veto power over any country seeking to join NATO and has vowed to use it until its concerns regarding the alleged presence of the PKK in Sweden are addressed. In response, Sweden has enacted a constitutional amendment and revised laws to enable action against terrorist groups within the country. Additionally, Sweden’s highest court recently approved the extradition of a self-declared PKK supporter to Turkey on drug-related charges. Furthermore, a Swedish citizen has been charged by a prosecutor for fundraising for the PKK.
To address these issues and make progress towards NATO membership, senior officials from Finland, Sweden, and NATO met with their Turkish counterparts in Ankara on Wednesday.
During the discussions, Kılıç will convey the President’s stance that Sweden must combat terrorism just as Turkey has done within its borders. Erdoğan emphasised that without such actions, Turkey cannot support Sweden’s entry into NATO as if nothing had happened.