Turkey’s foreign minister has described the support that future new NATO members Sweden and Finland give to the PKK, a Kurdish rebel group labeled a “terrorist” organization by Ankara and its Western allies as “unacceptable and outrageous”.
The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has been waging an uprising against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands, and Ankara’s criticism of Sweden and Finland may have complicated plans for NATO expansion.
“The problem is that these two countries are openly calling the PKK and YPG. support and collaborate with it [People’s Protection Units]Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday as he arrived in Berlin to meet with his NATO counterparts.
“These are terrorist organizations that attack our troops every day,” Cavusoglu said.
“It is therefore unacceptable and outrageous that our friends and allies support this terrorist organization,” he said.
“These are the issues we need to talk about with our NATO allies, as well as with these countries [Sweden and Finland]†
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics said NATO will find a “sensible” solution to accepting Finland and Sweden as new members, despite Turkish concerns.
“We’ve had those discussions in the alliance before. I think we’ve always found sensible solutions, and we’ll find one this time too,” he told reporters in Berlin.
“Swedish and Finnish membership is paramount for the entire alliance, and ultimately for Turkey,” he said.
Step Vaessen of Al Jazeera, reporting from Berlin, said Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO is expected in the coming days.
“It is a great historic moment for both countries that have been neutral for so long,” Vaessen said, adding that Russia’s actions in Ukraine had “pushed them towards NATO”.
All 30 NATO members must approve their application, and the acceptance process is likely to take several months, Vaessen said, explaining that it is during the “so-called gray period” between application and membership that it is most worrisome for both countries. During this period, Sweden and Finland will not have the collective defense protections of NATO Article 5, which states that “an attack on one is an attack on all,” she said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said earlier on Saturday that Turkey had not closed the door to Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, but that negotiations are needed with the Scandinavian countries and measures need to be taken. against what Ankara considers terrorist activities.
Turkey considers YPG, the US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, a “terrorist” organization. Ankara considers YPG to be a PKK affiliate.
“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a national security issue for Turkey,” Kalin, who is also the president’s top foreign policy adviser, told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.
Kalin said the PKK raised and recruited in Europe and that its presence was “strong and open and recognized”, especially in Sweden.
“What needs to be done is clear: they must stop allowing PKK establishments, activities, organizations, individuals and other forms of presence in those countries,” he said.
“We’ll see how it goes. But this is the first point we want to bring to the attention of all allies, as well as the Swedish authorities,” he added.
Erdogan surprised NATO members and the two Nordic countries by saying on Friday that it was not possible for Turkey to support the expansion of the military alliance, while Finland and Sweden are “home to many terrorist organizations”.
Any country that wants to join NATO needs the unanimous support of the member states. The United States and other member states have tried to clarify Ankara’s position on Finland and Sweden.
Sweden and its closest military partner, Finland, have so far remained outside NATO, which was formed in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
The two countries are wary of antagonizing Moscow, but security concerns have increased since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
‘Mutual point of view’
Turkey, NATO’s second-largest military, has officially supported the expansion since joining the US-led alliance 70 years ago.
Turkey has criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, helped arm Kiev and tried to facilitate talks between the parties, but has resisted sanctions against Moscow.
When asked whether Turkey ran the risk of over-trading in wartime, and when Finnish and Swedish public opinion favors NATO membership, Kalin said: “If they [Finland and Sweden] have an audience that is concerned about their own national security, we have an audience that is equally concerned about our own security,” he said.
Kalin said Russia’s sharp criticism of Finland and Sweden over their plans to join NATO played no part in Turkey’s position.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart on Saturday that joining NATO would be “a mistake”.
“Putin stressed that ending the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake as there is no threat to Finland’s security,” the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday.