Finland, Sweden propose working to address Turkey’s concerns on NATO membership bid
Finland and Sweden have proposed to work with Turkey towards eliminating the Turkish government’s concerns regarding their NATO membership, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on May 15, stressing that they must provide guarantees on the issue of the YPG/PKK and lift export bans on Turkey.
The minister on May 14 held a tripartite meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Ann Linde, and his Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haavisto, in Berlin on the sidelines of a NATO meeting, as Turkey voiced its objection to their membership bid to the alliance.
Speaking at a press conference after the NATO meeting on May 15, the minister emphasized that Turkey has been supporting NATO’s open-door policy and pointed to the country’s stance on the recent enlargement of NATO in the Balkans, but the case for Finland and Sweden was different.
“At the NATO meeting, we told member states that Sweden and Finland support the terrorist organization. In particular, we have openly expressed the issue of arms aid by Sweden,” Çavuşoğlu said.
He underlined that solidarity is needed among the members of the alliance when it comes to security issues.
“The countries that meet with the PKK [members] should give up their stance,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to Turkey’s hesitation concerning the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland.
Restrictions in the defense industry towards Turkey must also be lifted, he said. “It is unacceptable for a NATO member country to impose restrictions on its allies,” the minister stated.
He stressed Turkey’s perspective of “distrust” of both countries, particularly towards Sweden.
Elaborating on his meetings with the Swedish and Finnish counterparts, Çavuşoğlu said, “They said that they see the PKK as a terrorist organization and that their stance will continue. There was a suggestion that we should do a study to address your concerns on other issues as well.”
There was no constructive stance coming from Sweden’s foreign minister, he noted and criticized the “negative” statements from Swedish officials.
“The Finnish foreign minister is taking a more realistic stance,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey’s concerns are “not a threat, not a bargain, not populism,” he added.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on May 13 that Turkey was not in favor of the plans by Sweden and Finland to join NATO, saying that the two countries were “home to many terrorist organizations.” As a NATO member, Turkey could veto moves to admit the two countries.
The Finnish government officially announced its intention to join NATO on May 15, as Sweden’s ruling party was to hold a decisive meeting that could pave the way for a joint application.
“Today, the president of the Republic and the Government’s Foreign Policy Committee have jointly agreed that Finland will apply for NATO membership, after consulting parliament,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told reporters at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Finland’s parliament will convene to debate the membership proposal on May 16. “We hope the parliament will confirm the decision to apply for NATO membership during the coming days. It will be based on a strong mandate,” Marin said.
Less than three months after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the move is a stunning reversal of Finland’s policy on military non-alignment dating back more than 75 years.
Sweden, which has been militarily non-aligned for more than two centuries, is expected to follow suit with a similar announcement, possibly on Monday.