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Turkey threatens to block Finland and Sweden Nato bids

17-5-2022 |

Turkey's president has restated his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining Nato - just hours after they said they would seek membership.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two Nordic nations should not bother sending delegations to convince Turkey, a key Nato member, of their bids.

He is angered by what he sees as their willingness to host Kurdish militants.

Without the support of all Nato members, Sweden and Finland cannot join the military alliance.

On Monday, Sweden said Europe was living in a dangerous new reality, referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the move by Finland and Sweden to join the 30-member military alliance did not threaten Moscow directly - but stressed that any expansion of military infrastructure would trigger a response from the Kremlin.

At a news conference on Monday, Mr Erdogan said Turkey opposed the Finnish and the Swedish bids to join Nato, describing Sweden as a "hatchery" for terrorist organisations.

"Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation. How can we trust them?" the Turkish president said.

Turkey accuses the two Nordic nations of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group it views as a terrorist organisation, and followers of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

In 2019, both Nordic nations slapped an arms embargo on Ankara after its incursion into Syria which caused outrage in the Turkish government.

All member countries must agree that a new country can join NATO, so Sweden and Finland need Turkey's support.

Speaking at parliament in Helsinki, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he was surprised by Turkey's stance, but added that his government was not interested in "bargaining" with Mr. Erdogan.

Sweden is also not concerned about Turkey's threats.

"NATO will strengthen Sweden, Sweden will strengthen NATO," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said at a recent briefing. "We are leaving one era behind and entering a new one."

The Prime Minister confirmed that the official application could be made within a few days and would be in sync with Finland. NATO announced its readiness to accept two new members.

Norway, Denmark and Iceland - all members of NATO - immediately declared that they were ready to support Sweden and Finland with all necessary means if they were attacked.

The UK, also a member of NATO, has already provided security guarantees to Sweden and Finland for a transitional period.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he was confident that Finland and Sweden would join NATO despite Turkish objections.

Sweden's announcement came on Monday as NATO launched one of its largest exercises in the Baltic region, involving around 15,000 troops. The exercise in Estonia, dubbed "Hedgehog", involves 10 countries, including Finland and Sweden.

Source: BBC