Turkey’s leader opposes Finland and Sweden joining NATO

In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 13, 2022. Erdogan said on Friday that his country is "not favorable" led to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, indicating that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries.  (Turkish Presidency via AP)

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In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 13, 2022. Erdogan said on Friday that his country ” is not favourable” towards Finland and Sweden. joining NATO, indicating that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

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In this photo provided by the Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 13, 2022. Erdogan said on Friday that his country ” is not favourable” towards Finland and Sweden. joining NATO, indicating that Turkey could use its status as a member of the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

HELSINKI (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country is “not in favor” of Finland and Sweden joining NATO.indicating that Turkey could use its membership in the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries.

“We are following the developments related to Sweden and Finland, but we do not have a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters.

The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing alleged support from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey regards as terrorists.

He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” when it agreed to readmit Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action had allowed Greece to “take a stand against Turkey” with NATO backing.

Erdogan did not say outright that he would block any accession attempt by the two Nordic nations. However, NATO makes all of its decisions by consensus, which means that each of the 30 member countries has a potential veto over who can join.

Russian aggression in Ukraine it led Finland and Sweden to reconsider their traditions of military non-alignment. Public opinion in the two countries quickly began to favor NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

If the two countries go down that path, it would be a serious blow to Russia. ever since President Vladimir Putin cited NATO expansion near Russian territory as one of his justifications for invading Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden held a call on Friday with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

The White House said in a statement that Biden “underscored his support for NATO’s open-door policy and the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy and security arrangements.”

Niinistö’s office said the three leaders “shared deep concern about Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

“President Niinistö reviewed Finland’s next steps towards NATO membership. President Niinistö told (Biden) that Finland deeply appreciates all necessary support from the United States,” the office said in a brief statement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Washington is “working to clarify Turkey’s position” and believes there is “broad support” among NATO members for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. The alliance.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet with his NATO counterparts, including Turkey’s foreign minister, this weekend in Germany.

Top US diplomat for Europe Karen Donfried told reporters ahead of Blinken’s trip that the United States continues to support possible Finnish and Swedish bids for NATO membership. She said that the United States remains convinced that the alliance is more united than ever due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Finland’s president and prime minister said on Thursday they were in favor of quickly seeking NATO membership, paving the way for the country to announce a decision in the coming days. Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party, led by Andersson, is expected to reveal its decision on Sunday.

Asked about Erdogan’s comments during a news conference in Helsinki, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said: “We need some patience in this kind of process. It’s not happening in a day. This is all I can say for now. Let us analyze the problems step by step.”

The Finnish minister said he is likely to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the NATO meeting in Berlin over the weekend. Cavusoglu spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday, but Turkey’s foreign ministry did not provide details.

Stoltenberg has said that Finland and Sweden, should they formally apply to join the world’s largest security organization, would be welcomed with open arms.

The accession procedure could be completed in “a couple of weeks”, several NATO officials have said, although it could take around six months for member countries to ratify the accession protocol.

Meanwhile, a Swedish government report on the change in the security environment facing the Nordic country after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine says that Moscow would react negatively to Sweden’s NATO entry and launch various countermeasures.

The analysis of the Swedish government’s security policy, which will be used as the basis for Andersson’s Cabinet to decide whether to seek membership in the Western military alliance, was presented to Swedish lawmakers on Friday.

The report did not include a recommendation on whether or not Sweden should try to join NATO. But he noted that NATO membership carries a number of advantages for Sweden, most notably the collective security provided by the 30-member military alliance.

At the same time, it lists numerous tactics that Russia is likely to adopt in retaliation, including cyberattacks, violations of Swedish airspace, and threats to use nuclear weapons.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Matt Lee and Chris Megerian in Washington contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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