By Ece Toksabay
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that it was not possible for his country, which is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to support plans by Sweden and the United States. Finland to join the pact, saying the Nordic countries are “home to many terrorist organizations”.
While Turkey has officially supported the alliance’s expansion since joining NATO 70 years ago, its opposition could pose a problem for Sweden and Finland, as new members need unanimous agreement from current members.
Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow suit, could lead to the expansion of the Western military alliance, something Russian President Vladimir Putin had intended to avoid. in launching the invasion of Ukraine.
“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we do not have positive views,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that it was a mistake for NATO to accept Greece as a member in the past.
“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. In addition, Scandinavian countries host terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said, without elaborating.
“They are even members of Parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favor,” she added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Finns would be “warmly welcomed” into the alliance and promised a “smooth and quick” accession process, which the United States also supports.
But Turkey has repeatedly criticized Sweden and other Western European countries for their treatment of organizations Ankara considers terrorists, including the Kurdish PKK and YPG militant groups, and followers of US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Ankara says the Gulenists staged a coup attempt in 2016. Gulen and his supporters deny the charge.
Moscow on Thursday called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.
Turkey criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sent armed drones to Ukraine and sought to facilitate peace talks between the parties. But it has not supported Western sanctions on Moscow and seeks to maintain close trade, energy and tourism ties with Russia.