HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland and Sweden will send delegations to Ankara on Wednesday to try to resolve Turkish opposition to their applications for membership of the NATO military alliance, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday.
Ankara’s objections have put the brakes on what Sweden and Finland hoped would be a quick accession process as the two countries look to shore up their security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We understand that Turkey has some of their own security concerns vis-a-vis terrorism,” Haavisto said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We think that these issues can be settled. There might be also some issues that are not linked directly to Finland and Sweden but more to other NATO members.”
Turkey says Sweden and Finland harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that talks would start on Wednesday.
On Monday, Turkey outlined five conditions for it to back Sweden’s NATO membership bid, demanding that Sweden lift sanctions against Turkey, including an arms export embargo; end “political support for terrorism”; eliminate sources of terrorism financing and halt arms support to the PKK and its armed Syrian offshoot YPG, according to a list published by the president’s directorate of communications.
“Sweden, which has applied for membership, is expected to take principled steps and provide concrete assurances regarding Turkey’s security concerns,” the directorate said in the statement.
“Since 2017, our country has requested the extradition of PKK/PYD and FETO terrorists from Sweden but has yet to receive a positive response,” it said, referring to Syria’s main Kurdish party PYD and Gulen’s group FETO in addition to PKK.
A Turkish official said Turkey would not backtrack in its talks with Sweden and Finland unless concrete progress was made to address Ankara’s security concerns, adding it was not separately negotiating with Washington over the Nordic countries.
“There are a number of diplomatic initiatives ongoing,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in a statement. “We have no further comments.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has objected to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, held phone calls with the leaders of the two Nordic countries on Saturday and discussed his concerns.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said the talks were “open and direct”.
“I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” Niinisto tweeted after the call.
Erdogan spoke also with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday, telling him that Ankara would not look positively on Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids unless they clearly show cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other issues.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen. Additional reporting by Helena Soderpalm and Simon Johnson in Stockholm, Ece Toksabay and Orhan Coskun in Ankara; Editing by Catherine Evans, Nick Macfie and Raissa Kasolowsky)