Negotiations fail, Erdogan maintains his veto on Sweden and Finland joining NATO
The negotiations held so far by Sweden and Finland with Turkey for Ankara to lift its veto against the accession of these Nordic countries to NATO have not been successful, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in statements reported by the NTV channel on Sunday. Consequently, Turkey will continue to block the enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance, the Turkish leader stressed during a visit to Azerbaijan. The Turkish demand – not met by the EU – to declare the Kurdish militias in Syria a terrorist group is one of the blocking points in the negotiations. “As long as Tayyip Erdogan is at the head of the republic of Turkey, we will not say yes to NATO membership for countries that support terrorism,” the president has insisted.
Since Sweden and Finland announced, in the middle of this month, their intention to join NATO, Erdogan has warned that he will veto their accession – which must be approved unanimously in the Alliance – if these countries continue to host militants of the Kurdish movements that Ankara considers terrorists. The European Union defines Turkey’s Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as a terrorist group, but Ankara complains that even so, member countries do not extradite people Turkey considers linked to that armed group.
The talks initiated last Wednesday by delegations from Helsinki and Stockholm with a Turkish delegation “unfortunately have not been at the level that was expected,” the Turkish leader said. “They have expectations, but they have not taken the steps that we think are necessary. […] Even at this moment, there are terrorists walking the streets of Stockholm, protected by the police,” said the president.
Moreover, Ankara has been unsuccessfully demanding for years that the EU also classify Syria’s Kurdish militias, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as a terrorist group because of their links to the PKK. “The same day we spoke (with the Nordic delegations in Ankara), the terrorist Salih Müslim came out to speak on Swedish public television,” Erdogan denounced in reference to one of the leaders of the Kurdish PYD party, the political arm of the YPG.
On the other hand, the president criticized that U.S. bases on the territory of Greece (another NATO member) “are used against Turkey” and assured that he will not speak again with the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, for his “hostile” speech in Washington last week. Erdogan also reiterated his warning that Turkey will soon launch a new military operation in northern Syria to control territories now dominated by Kurdish militias, but did not specify the time frame of this plan.
“As we have always said, one night we will suddenly descend on those hills; that is what we must do,” the president said. On Sunday afternoon, Erdogan repeated this message at a crowded ceremony at Istanbul’s former Atatürk airport, where he planted a tree, inaugurating work to turn the space into a public park. “We are fighting terrorists in northern Syria. We will continue until we uproot them,” the president pledged before a crowd he put at more than half a million people.