Erdoğan: Turkey ‘not positive’ about Sweden and Finland joining NATO | NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cast doubt on Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, saying he does not have a positive view of the two Nordic nations joining the military alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

His comments came as a Swedish parliamentary security review said membership would reduce the risk of conflict in northern Europe and a day after neighboring Finland said it aimed to join the alliance.

Finland and Sweden, though both NATO partners, have long viewed membership as an unnecessary provocation by Russia, their powerful neighbor to the east. However, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a radical rethinking of its security policies.

NATO membership would require ratification by all existing members, and Erdoğan told reporters after leaving Friday prayers in Istanbul that Turkey would not be welcome either.

“We are currently following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel good about it,” he said.

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and its membership remains a cornerstone of its foreign policy towards Western countries. The comments appeared to be directed at the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, although they seemed to encompass communities of Kurdish origin in Scandinavia as a whole.

“We don’t want to make a mistake,” he added. “Scandinavian countries are like guest houses for terrorist organizations. To go further, they also have seats in their parliaments.”

Sweden has a large Kurdish diaspora and prominent Swedish citizens of Kurdish origin currently include six members of parliament. The Turkish authorities have not provided any evidence for claims that the parliamentarians have links to the PKK or similar groups outside of Sweden.

Finland’s Kurdish-speaking population was estimated at just over 15,000 people in 2020, less than 0.3% of the population.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Friday urged patience and called for a gradual approach in response to Turkey. “We need a little patience in this type of process, it’s not going to happen in a day… We’re going to take things step by step,” he told reporters.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö said Thursday that the country “must apply for NATO membership without delay.” The government is expected to confirm the decision on Sunday, with parliamentary approval likely early next week.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats will also decide whether to formally approve joining NATO on Sunday and are expected to drop decades of opposition to membership. Parliament will debate security issues on Monday.

The security review released Friday did not make a recommendation, but said developing defense alliances outside existing structures was unrealistic.

“Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a conflict-preventing effect in Northern Europe,” said the country’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, presenting the findings. Of the report.

“The most important consequence of Swedish membership would be that Sweden would be part of the collective security of NATO and included in the security guarantees according to article 5. [of the alliance’s founding treaty],” she said.

Article 5, the cornerstone of the US-led defensive alliance, establishes that an attack against one NATO member is an attack against all and commits its 30 current members to defend each other in the event of armed aggression.

The Swedish report, to be debated in parliament on Monday, noted that “within the framework of current cooperation, there is no guarantee that Sweden will receive aid if it is the target of a serious threat or attack.”

The Expressen newspaper reported that a special cabinet meeting will be called after Monday’s parliamentary debate, with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson likely to submit Sweden’s application for NATO membership by the end of the day.

Not all members of the ruling Social Democratic party are automatically in favour. “I think everyone would have wanted more time for this, because it is a big problem,” Stefan Löfven, prime minister from 2014 to 2021, told Agence France-Presse.

Moscow has previously warned that Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership would force it to “redress the balance” by strengthening its defenses in the Baltic, including deploying nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania.

Linde noted that Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO would be considered “negative” by Russia. She said neither country expected a “conventional military attack” as a reaction, but added that “an armed attack cannot be ruled out.”

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Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said on Friday: “If Sweden chooses to seek NATO membership, there is a risk of a reaction from Russia. Let me say that in such a case, we are prepared to face any counter-response.”

Public support for NATO membership in Finland, which shares an 810-mile (1,300 km) border with Russia, has more than tripled to around 76% since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and has risen to around 60% in Sweden.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said both countries will be “welcomed with open arms” and that the accession process will be swift, although formal approval by all alliance members could take several months.

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