Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he opposed plans by Finland, and possibly Sweden, to apply to join NATO – an application which must be unanimously endorsed by the 27 countries of the Western military alliance to be approved.
Mr. Erdogan’s comments Friday were the first discordant note in the fallout from the announcement Thursday that Finnish officials had decided to drop the country’s long neutral stance in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NATO top leaders in Brussels and many European NATO powers quickly welcomed the move and predicted a quick and easy accession period.
But Mr. Erdogan complained to reporters in Istanbul Friday about what he said was the willingness of both applicants to give a home to “terrorists,” in particular, members of the separatist Kurdish PKK that has fought a long, bloody insurrection against the Turkish government.
“We are currently following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel positively about this,” Mr. Erdogan said. “… Scandinavian countries are like guesthouses for terrorist organizations. To go even further, they have seats in their parliaments, too.”
Sweden has one of the largest ethnic Kurdish communities outside of the Middle East, while Finland has a smaller Kurdish minority.
Finnish officials appeared to be taking Mr. Erdogan’s comments in stride, noting that Helsinki’s decision this week is just the beginning of a lengthy accession process with NATO and with individual members. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, meeting G-7 foreign ministers in Berlin Friday, told the Reuters news agency the process required “patience” on all sides.
“We need some patience in this type of process, it’s not happening in one day,” Mr. Haavisto said.
” … Let’s take issues step by step.”
Russia has strongly criticized Finland’s NATO decision and has vowed unspecified retaliation if its neighbor formally joins the Western alliance.