NATO chief: Turkey has ‘legitimate concerns’ over terrorism

HELSINKI — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that Turkey has “legitimate concerns” about terrorism and other issues that should be taken seriously.

Turkey has accused Finland and Sweden of supporting Kurdish militants and says it will not support the two Nordic countries that join NATO until they change their policies.

During a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Stoltenberg emphasized that “no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey” and pointed to its strategic geographic location with neighbors such as Iraq and Syria.

“These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, it’s about arms exports,” Stoltenberg said. “We need to address the security concerns of all allies, including Turkish concerns about the PKK terrorist group.”

He spoke at the Finnish presidential summer residence Kultaranta in western Finland.

After decades of military non-alignment, Russia’s war in Ukraine forced Finland and Sweden to apply to join NATO in May. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants considered terrorists by Turkey and has vetoed their entry into the 30-member alliance.

“Obviously, when a vital ally like Turkey raises concerns about terrorism, we need to sit down and take them seriously. And that’s exactly what we do,” says Stoltenberg.

Ankara’s demands on Helsinki and Stockholm also include the lifting of restrictions on arms exports to Turkey and the extradition of members of certain Kurdish organizations who oppose Erdogan’s government.

In recent weeks, the NATO chief has tried to resolve the dispute, but did not reveal any progress on Sunday.

He was due to attend an annual discussion panel in Kultaranta later Sunday, along with Finnish and Scandinavian politicians, foreign and security policy experts and military representatives.

Stoltenberg will visit Sweden on Monday for talks with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

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