Turkey threatens to block Sweden and Finland´s accession to NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which threatens to obstruct the process that requires the unanimity of the alliance countries.


And the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland announced that the two countries intend to hold talks with Turkey on Saturday in Berlin, after the Turkish president opposed their possible accession.
"There will be an opportunity to discuss Sweden's possible candidacy" with her Turkish counterpart during a scheduled informal meeting of NATO ministers to which Sweden and Finland were invited, Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde told AFP.


"I hope we always get positive messages from all 30 NATO countries. Many of the 30 allies have publicly expressed their strong support for Sweden and Finland. ... The Turkish government has not sent us this kind of message directly," the minister said.


During a press conference at the same time in Helsinki, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto announced his intention to "continue discussions" with the Turkish Foreign Minister. "I think we need to be patient with these processes and know that it cannot be done in one day...let's take it step by step," he said, noting that Finland has not yet officially announced its candidacy.


"We do not have a positive opinion," Erdogan said Friday. He made it clear to reporters that he did not want to see "the same mistake that was made when Greece joined."
"We are currently following developments related to Sweden and Finland, but we do not have a positive opinion because they made a mistake in NATO regarding Greece before against Turkey," he added at the end of Friday prayers in Istanbul.


"We don't want to make a second mistake," he added.


He also accused Stockholm and Helsinki of "harboring terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers' Party," which Turkey, the European Union and the United States consider a terrorist organization.
The announcement casts a chill on the process that has so far supported most of the Atlantic and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said he was ready to receive them "warmly".


When a new country applies to join, it requires the unanimous consent of the members of the Alliance to be invited to join.


Finland previously expressed its confidence in Turkey's support: after discussing the issue with Erdogan in early April, his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö said on Twitter that "Turkey supports Finland's goals."
On Sunday, after a cabinet meeting, Finland's candidacy to join NATO, backed by the president and prime minister, will be officially approved.
A Swedish official report on Friday paved the way for the country to join NATO, which doubled positive expectations ahead of the decision of the Scandinavian country and its Finnish neighbor in the coming days.
On Friday, US President Joe Biden spoke for more than half an hour with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Washington announced.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed Thursday that the United States will support the membership applications of Sweden and Finland.
For her part, US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Karen Dunfried confirmed Friday that there is "strong support" for the two countries' accession to the alliance and that what is necessary will be done to "clarify Turkey's position" on this issue.


Moscow had previously denounced a decision that would "certainly" pose a threat to Russia and would have "consequences (...) for the European security architecture as a whole".
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ankara has done its best to maintain good relations with Russia and Ukraine on which its economy closely depends.


It even hosted talks between Ukraine and Moscow twice in March in Antalya (southern) and then Istanbul.


This position "may make Turkey appear within NATO as a pro-Russian country like Hungary in Europe," Soner Cagaptay, an analyst at the Washington Institute, told AFP by phone.


"Its reasons may be legitimate, but this will contribute to harming Ankara's image within NATO," adding that these objections "should have been negotiated in a closed session."


After staying for decades outside military alliances, Helsinki and Stockholm, both non-aligned countries, are ready to formally announce their candidacy to join NATO, as a direct result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


According to recent polls, about half of the 10 million Swedes now support joining the alliance, a percentage that rises to two thirds if Finland joins as well.


In Finland, which shares a 1,300 km border with Russia, more than three-quarters of the population of 5.5 million people want to join NATO.


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is scheduled to participate in an informal meeting in Berlin this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) with his counterparts in the NATO countries.
The purpose of the meeting, according to the ministry, is to assess "ongoing work" within the coalition. It is likely that the Turkish veto against the expansion of the alliance is on the table.

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