Turkey keeps roadblock on Finland and Sweden bids to join Nato

Helsinki and Stockholm dropped decades of military non-alignment after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pose as they sail through Bosphorus in Istanbul. Reuters
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Turkey is still not ready to formally approve the Nato membership applications of Finland and Sweden, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

He told Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg the Nordic neighbours must take the necessary “steps” to win Turkish approval.

Ankara has opposed the applications since they were first made, with a primary grievance being over how Sweden and Finland treat the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkey has accused them of providing a safe haven for Kurdish militants that Ankara deems “terrorists”.

“President Erdogan noted that the steps to be taken by Sweden and Finland would determine how fast the approval process … would go and when it would be concluded,” the Turkish presidency said.

Mr Erdogan and Mr Stoltenberg held a private meeting in Istanbul that was closed to the media.

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and scrambled to become Nato members in May.

New Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will visit Ankara on Tuesday to meet Mr Erdogan — a trip that Stockholm hopes will lead to Turkey's approval.

When Mr Erdogan first threatened to block their bids, he also sought concessions, which led to a deal in June between Turkey, Finland and Sweden that included provisions on extraditions and sharing information.

Sweden and Finland committed in the June agreement to taking a harder line on Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists.

Omer Celik, a spokesman for Turkey's ruling AKP, said last week that Ankara has yet to see Sweden's promises “come to life”.

Mr Stoltenberg “welcomed the major, concrete steps already taken by both countries to put the memorandum into practice, and stressed that their accession will make Nato stronger”, the alliance said in a statement on Friday.

On Thursday, the secretary general said during a press conference with the Turkish foreign minister that Finland and Sweden's accession was important “to send a clear message to Russia”.

Out of all the Nato member states, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the accession of Sweden and Finland.

Assuming all 30 Nato member states do approve Sweden and Finland's bids, it would mark a historic enlargement of the alliance as the war in Ukraine continues.

Hungary, which has often frustrated its European allies by blocking sanctions on Russia, has said its MPs would consider the two Nato applications in December.

Updated: November 04, 2022, 11:09 PM