Turkey sets conditions for Finland and Sweden to join NATO

Turkey’s foreign minister has demanded that Sweden and Finland stop supporting groups they consider terrorists if they want to join NATO.

After a meeting of NATO foreign ministers May 15 in Berlin, Germany, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had met his Swedish and Finnish counterparts and said the sides were looking at ways to resolve Turkey’s problems.

“Our position is completely open and clear,” Cavusoglu said, stressing that Turkey is not threatening anyone or seeking an advantage. He expressed concern about Sweden’s support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is viewed as a terrorist by Turkey, the United States and the European Union (EU).

“There must be security guarantees. You must stop supporting terrorist organizations,” said Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, calling on Sweden and Finland to lift their export ban on certain defense-related goods to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a press conference May 15 in Berlin, Germany.  Photo: Reuters.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a press conference May 15 in Berlin, Germany. Picture: Reuters.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey will not block Finland and Sweden from joining the alliance and expressed confidence in addressing concerns raised by Ankara.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on May 13 that Turkey had “no positive opinion” on Sweden and Finland joining NATO, accusing the two Nordic countries of harboring groups Ankara considers terrorists.

However, Erdogan’s spokesman later said Turkey had not closed the door on NATO to the two Nordic countries.

After Russia launched a special military operation to “demilitarize and defascize Ukraine,” Finland and Sweden decided to consider the possibility of joining NATO, abandoning long-standing policy of not forming a military alliance.

The President and Prime Minister of Finland confirmed on May 15 that the country will join NATO, calling it a historic decision that ushers in a new era. As a next step, the Finnish Parliament will meet on May 16 to consider the decision to apply to join NATO. Experts assume that a majority of the 200 Finnish parliamentarians will support the decision to apply for NATO membership.

Seven Decades of NATO Advance in Europe.  Click here for details.

Seven Decades of NATO Advance in Europe. Click here for details.

Finland shares a 1,300 km border with Russia. They became neutral by a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in 1948, hoping to prevent a repeat of the 1939 Finnish-Soviet war that killed more than 80,000 soldiers.

During the Cold War, the Nordic nation maintained its non-aligned principle, despite the influence of both blocs led by the Soviet Union and the United States. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Finland gradually shifted its foreign policy focus to the West, marked by the decision to join the EU in 1995.

Neighboring Sweden followed a similar path after the end of the Cold War, EU accession in 1995 and increased cooperation with NATO. Sweden has avoided joining a military alliance for over 200 years.

Nguyen Tien (Corresponding Reuters, AFP)