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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could not agree to Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members.
In a briefing on Monday, the Turkish president said Ankara could not believe Finland's and Sweden's pledges regarding non-support to terrorists. Turkey deems Kurds residing in Sweden and Finland to be terrorists as they are suspected of being associated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Ankara calls a terrorist organization.
Turkey has accused both states of their failure to deport dozens of suspected terrorists. "We can't say yes. Otherwise, NATO will not be a security organization but rather will become a place where there will be many representatives of terrorists. We cannot say yes, no offense," Turkey's President said.
Turkey has said that Sweden and Finland rejected to date its extradition requests concerning 33 suspects with alleged links to the PKK and the Gulen movement. Along these lines, the two Nordic states have suggested working with Ankara to reach a solution, given the Turkish government's demand for "security guarantees" and the dropping of restrictions on defense exports to the country.
Among other European nations, Sweden and Finland froze arms exports to Turkey following its military operation in northern Syria in the fall of 2019. Erdogan told the briefing that Ankara would not say "yes" to those who impose sanctions against Turkey.
President @RTErdogan has closed the NATO door to Sweden and Finland:
"They would come to Turkey, so they should not bother. We would not say yes to the participation of those who impose sanctions on Turkey in a security organization." pic.twitter.com/q5qmD5nU38
Following Russia's special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, Finland and Sweden officially announced their intention to join the U.S.-led NATO military bloc. In response, Turkey issued a warning that it could block such expansion, accusing the two countries of supporting Kurdish militants considered by Ankara to be terrorists. Though the rest of the bloc stands ready to accept new members, unanimous approval of NATO's 30 members is required for expansion.
In this regard, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that "our stance is perfectly open and clear. This is not a threat; this is not a negotiation where we're trying to leverage our interests. This is not populism, either. This is clearly about two potential member states' support for terrorism, and our solid observations about it, this is what we shared."
Faced with Sweden and Finland's bids to join NATO, Russia has said it would respond consequently. Warning that "NATO's latest expansion will not make our continent more stable and secure," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would have to work out the necessary measures to balance the situation and guarantee the country's security.