Turkey will not be rushed to drop its opposition to moves by Sweden and Finland to join Nato by next month when leaders of the alliance’s member states meet for a summit in June, a senior adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.
Turkey first expects “concrete steps” from the two Nordic states on its demands that include recognising a Syrian Kurdish militant group that is fighting the Islamic State as “terrorists” and extraditing 40 people who Ankara wants to prosecute in its courts, Ibrahim Kalin said in televised remarks after meeting Swedish and Finnish negotiators in Ankara on Wednesday.
Finland and Sweden’s historic applications to enter the western defence alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine now hang in the balance after Turkey, Nato’s second-biggest military, threatened to block the expansion over what it says are the countries’ backing for groups that imperil its security. New entrants must receive unanimous approval from Nato members.
“We are not under time pressure to rush this process by the time of the summit” scheduled for June 29-30 in Madrid, Kalin said. “Unless Turkey’s security concerns are met with concrete steps within a certain timeframe, we very clearly expressed that the process will not proceed.”
Nato has said it wants Sweden and Finland to participate in the summit with a special status, as well as fast-track their accession after they abandoned a long history of neutrality to apply this month to enter the bloc. Russia has warned of “consequences” in response.
The war in Ukraine has upended Europe’s security order and unified much of the continent under what it sees as a common threat emanating from Russia. While Turkey has condemned the invasion and supplied Kyiv with critical military hardware, it has not joined other Nato members in placing sanctions on Russia, with which it has close trade, energy and defence links.
Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign minister, said in a tweet after the meeting: “It was agreed that the dialogue, conducted in a constructive spirit, will be continued.”
Several European countries imposed defence-export restrictions on Turkey after it invaded neighbouring Syria in 2019 to attack the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia that fought alongside the US against Islamic State.
Erdoğan said this week that his armed forces were preparing a new cross-border offensive against the YPG. Turkey argues that the YPG is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ party, which has waged a four-decade insurgency on Turkish soil and is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the US and the European Union.
Kalin noted a “positive attitude” on Ankara’s requirement that Finland and Sweden drop their arms embargoes and that their envoys conveyed that “a political will had begun” to list the YPG as a terrorist organisation.
Turkey wants Sweden to extradite 28 people, and Finland to hand over 12 people for their alleged ties to Kurdish militants and an Islamic network that Ankara accuses of staging an abortive coup in 2016, Kalin said.
Erdoğan has called Sweden and Finland “nests of terrorism” and said that admitting them to Nato would amount to welcoming terrorist organisations into the bloc.
“There needs to be a paradigm change,” Kalin said. “As one of Nato’s most important allies, if Turkey’s security concerns are not addressed, it’s out of the question for any process whatsoever to advance.”
Additional reporting by Richard Milne in Oslo