Sweden and Finland want to join NATO, but Turkey has so far blocked it. President Erdogan is now taking a step towards the Scandinavian country and calling for an end to support for terrorist groups.
In order to join NATO, Turkey has asked Sweden to end its support for "terrorist groups" and an arms embargo. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mentioned these demands to Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Erdogan's office said. During the phone call, both heads of state and government discussed, among other things, Sweden's application to join NATO, which Turkey had initially blocked.
Sweden must end its "political, financial and military support" for terrorist groups and end "defense industry embargoes" imposed after a Turkish military operation against the Syrian Kurdish militia, the Ankara statement said. Erdogan told the Swedish Prime Minister that these are two "concrete and serious steps" that show that Stockholm shares Turkey's security concerns.
Andersson then told Swedish broadcaster SVT that she had emphasized that Sweden welcomed cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and clearly supported the fight against terrorism and the classification of the banned PKK party as a terrorist organization.
Erdogan is referring to the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria, which Ankara regards both as terrorist groups. The NATO ally, the USA, on the other hand, works closely with the YPG in Syria. After a Turkish military offensive against the YPG in 2019, Sweden, Finland and Germany, among others, restricted arms exports to Turkey. In the conversation, Erdogan also claimed again that Sweden supports followers of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish leadership blames the Gülen movement for the 2016 coup attempt against the president.
Erdogan also called his Finnish colleague Sauli Niinistö on Saturday. He then tweeted that it was an open conversation. Finland joining NATO would strengthen the security of both partners. "Finland condemns all forms of terrorism," stressed Niinistö. The dialogue will continue. Because of the Russian attack on Ukraine, Finland, like Sweden, applied to join NATO this week.
Turkey is the only member that has so far openly opposed an expansion of the military alliance to include the two countries. Russia had announced that it viewed the possible expansion of NATO territory as a threat to itself.