US & UK Reportedly Pressuring Sweden, Finland to Give in to Turkey's Demands Over NATO Bid
12:35 GMT 02.06.2022 (Updated: 07:20 GMT 27.09.2023)
Sweden and Finland submitted NATO membership applications on 18 May, abandoning decades of neutrality and arguing the Ukraine crisis had prompted a shift in the security situation in Europe. Turkey blocked the applications' review process over Stockholm and Helsinki's longstanding support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which it deems terrorist.
The US and UK are pressuring Sweden and Finland behind the scenes to satisfy Ankara's concerns about their NATO membership bid, Hurriyet reported on Thursday.
On 18 May, Stockholm and Helsinki submitted their NATO membership applications to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, arguing the necessity of abandoning their traditional neutrality against the backdrop of a dramatic shift in the security situation in Europe triggered by the Ukraine crisis. Reference was made to the special military operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine launched by Russia on 24 February.
A membership bid must be unanimously approved, however, and Turkey - a member of the bloc - said it would say no to the two countries’ bid due to their open support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party and Kurdish YPG militia, which are deemed terrorist organisations by Ankara.
Turkey's government even went as far as to lay out specific demands for Stockholm and Helsinki that should be met before it backs down from its opposition to their NATO membership bid.
At the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 27 - 30 May, the main issue on the agenda was the membership bid from the two Nordic states.
According to the report, strong lobbying for Sweden and Finland to cave to Turkey's demands came particularly from the United States and Britain.
Turkish legislators attending the meetings purportedly stated that there had been a chorus of foreign parliamentarians who echoed arguments put forward by NATO's top leadership to the effect that Turkey's demands were justified.
While it was acknowledged that Sweden and Finland needed to make some legal arrangements in their own domestic laws to accommodate Ankara’s requests, it was reported that the two countries were already working on the issue. Furthermore, Turkish parliamentarians allegedly conveyed the impression that Turkey's demands would be met.
19 May 2022, 08:09 GMT
On Wednesday NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said talks involving Turkey, Finland, and Sweden would take place in the coming days "to ensure that we make progress on the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO".
"My intention is to have this in place before the NATO summit" in Madrid starting on 28 June, Stoltenberg said on a visit to Washington, adding:
"Finland and Sweden have made it clear that they are ready to sit down and to address the concerns expressed by Turkey".
Earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's minister of foreign affairs, repeatedly stated that the two Nordic countries must change their laws to ensure a halt to their support for the PKK and other groups, bar them from organising any events on their territory, extradite those sought by Turkey on terrorism charges, support Ankara's military and counter-terrorism operations, and lift all arms exports restrictions.
On 25 May, the Finnish and Swedish delegations travelled to Ankara for talks, yet an ultimate settlement was not reached, with Turkey still obstructing the two countries from joining NATO.
Russia has repeatedly noted that further expansion of the alliance will not bring greater security to Europe. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted at the same time that he did not consider the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO an existential threat to Russia.