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Turkey: Erdogan threatens to veto Finland and Sweden Nato bid

Turkish president accuses of Finland and Sweden of harbouring PKK members, an organisation branded 'terrorist' by Turkey, the US and UK
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference after a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on May 9, 2022 (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday his country will veto Sweden and Finland's bids for Nato membership, accusing them of hosting Kurdish separatists.

Both Finland and Sweden have expressed a willingness to join the military alliance in the wake of Russia's actions against Ukraine.

However, Turkey - the second-largest army in Nato - has warned that there will be no accession to membership unless they agree to extradite members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who have fought an armed struggle with the Turkish state since 1984.

Turkey demands extradition of PKK members from Sweden, Finland for Nato bid
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Turkey, the US and EU all designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation, due to a history of deadly attacks on civilians. The group previously fought for an independent Kurdish state and now seeks autonomy for Kurdish areas.

The two countries have also imposed an arms import ban on Turkey since 2019, over the country's invasion of northern Syria over the presence of the PKK-linked Peoples' Protection Units (YPG).

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune in the capital Ankara, Erdogan asked how they could "trust" Sweden and Finland.

"Neither of these countries has a clear, open attitude toward terrorist organisations," he said.

"First of all, we cannot say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey, on joining Nato which is a security organisation."

The Swedish government said that it would send a delegation to Turkey in the coming days to discuss the issue.

“We will see what kind of security guarantees they will come up with,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. 

Turkey also wants all Finnish and Swedish arms export bans again Ankara to be lifted before they join Nato.

Erdogan’s spokesman and senior foreign policy advisor Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters over the weekend that the PKK was fundraising and recruiting in Europe and that its presence was “strong and open and acknowledged” in Sweden, in particular.

“What needs to be done is clear," he said. "They have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to… exist in those countries."

However, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Monday that he was surprised by Ankara’s stance, adding that he was not interested in “bargaining” with Erdogan.