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Turkish president says ‘no’ to Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid

Turkey’s president categorically said his country would oppose NATO membership for Sweden and Finland

ISTANBUL — Turkey will oppose Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the country’s president said emphatically in a video released on Thursday.

“We have told our concerned friends that we will say ‘no’ to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, and we will continue on this path,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a youth group Turks in Ataturk Commemoration Video, Youth and Sports Day, National Day.

Turkey’s endorsement of Finland’s and Sweden’s candidacy to join the Western military alliance is crucial as NATO makes its decisions by consensus. Each of its 30 member countries has the power to veto an application for membership.

Erdogan said Turkey’s objection stemmed from grievances with Sweden – and to a lesser extent with Finland – the perceived support of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey sees it as an extension of the PKK. The conflict with the PKK has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

Turkey also accuses Sweden and Finland of harboring supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric whom the Turkish government accuses of being responsible for the 2016 military coup attempt.

A full recording of Erdogan’s conversation with young people for the holiday that marks the start of the Turkish War of Independence in 1919 is due to be released on Thursday evening. It was not immediately clear when the conversation took place.

In remarks made public earlier on Thursday, Erdogan accused the two potential NATO members and in particular Sweden of being “a hotbed of terror, the hotbed of terror”. He claimed their links to terrorist organizations meant they should not be part of the transatlantic alliance.

Turkish officials, including the president, have also pointed to arms restrictions imposed on Turkey as the reason for Ankara’s opposition to the two countries joining NATO.

Several European countries, including Sweden and Finland, have restricted arms exports to Turkey following the country’s cross-border operation in northeast Syria in 2019 with the stated aim of clearing the border area Kurdish activists.

Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, is directly linked to the PKK has been frustrated by US support for their fight against the Islamic State group.

ABC News

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