Sweden and Finland must deport some 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before Ankara approves their NATO candidacy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.
Turkey has blocked offers from the two Nordic states to join the Western military alliance since their bid in May. According to NATO rules, all 30 members must agree before a new one can be admitted.
Turkey wants Sweden and Finland to meet several political demands, including the extradition of Kurds it considers terrorists and claims are linked to the PKK, criticism of Erdogan and the lifting of export bans. arms in Ankara.
Hungary has not yet approved its NATO candidacies.
“We said look, so if you don’t deliver your terrorists to us, we can’t pass it [approval of the NATO application] by parliament anyway,” Erdogan said in comments on Sunday evening.
“For this to pass through parliament, you first have to hand over to us over 100, around 130 of these terrorists.”
Critics have warned against making political concessions to Turkey, saying any deportation would be legally dubious and undermine the human rights of those affected, as well as each country’s sovereignty.
In January, Sweden said Turkey had demands it could not – and would not – meet.
Finnish politicians interpreted Erdogan’s comments as an angry reaction to an incident in Stockholm last week in which an effigy of the Turkish leader was hanged during a small protest by a Kurdish group.
“It’s time for Erdogan to step down before he ends up hanged in Taksim,” read the caption of a video, referring to the main square of Istanbul, the Turkish capital.
“It must have been a reaction, I believe, to the events of the past few days,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told public broadcaster YLE.
Haavisto said he was not aware of any new official request from Turkey.
In response to the Stockholm incident, Turkey canceled a planned visit to Ankara by Swedish parliament speaker Andreas Norlen, who instead flew to Helsinki on Monday.
“We emphasize that in Finland and Sweden we have freedom of speech. We cannot control it,” Finnish parliament speaker Matti Vanhanen told reporters at a joint press conference with Norlen. .
Separately, on Monday, Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson said his country was in a “good position” to secure Turkey’s ratification of its NATO bid.
Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said on Saturday that time is running out for Turkey’s parliament to ratify the candidacies ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May.