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Turkey will not support Sweden and Finland's Nato bid over PKK links

President Erdogan says Ankara won't repeat the same mistake it made by re-accepting Greece into Nato, saying that Sweden has become a guest house for the Kurdish group
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in June 2021 at a NATO summit in Brussels, says he will not support Finland and Sweden's NATO membership bid (Reuters)
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in June 2021 at a Nato summit in Brussels, says he will not support Finland and Sweden's Nato membership bid (Reuters)
By in
Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey does not view Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership bids positively due to their welcoming attitude towards the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

“Scandinavian countries have become a safe haven, a so-called guest house for PKK and other terror groups,” Erdogan said in a televised statement on Friday. “Some terrorists even participate in Sweden’s and the Netherlands’ parliaments.”

'Scandinavian countries have become a safe haven, a so-called guest house for PKK and other terror groups'

- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Erdogan said Ankara doesn’t want to repeat the same mistake as in 1980 when it voted to welcome Greece back into Nato’s military wing after it had withdrawn in 1974 during a military coup. 

He said that Greece has been using its Nato membership against Turkey, possibly referring to the military alliance's “Tiger Meet” drill hosted by Athens on 9-22 May.

The Turkish military earlier this year said that it wouldn’t participate in the Nato drill, alleging that Greece used Nato official documents to prove its point on bilateral disagreements over territorial waters and airspace. 

However, Erdogan didn't close the door to the two Scandinavian countries, leaving a path open for negotiations by not ruling them out definitively. 

Longstanding animosity

Turkey has long complained about Sweden’s alleged lax attitude towards the PKK, which for four decades has waged war against the Turkish state: first for a Kurdish independent state, and later for an autonomous region.

Turkey, the US and EU all designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation, due to its past, deadly actions against civilians. 

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Ankara frequently blames Stockholm for hosting PKK leaders and arranging high-level meetings with the representatives of the PKK’s Syrian arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). 

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde met YPG representatives in 2020 and triggered a harsh response from Ankara. Linde’s criticism of Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria during an official visit to Ankara also faced strong condemnation by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in 2020. 

Turkey previously blocked a Nato defence plan for Baltic countries in 2019 over the bloc’s refusal to reference YPG as a terror group in its official documents. Ankara took a step back after some negotiations where Nato met some of the Turkish conditions in 2020.

Ankara also criticised Finland for joining military sanctions against Turkey in 2019 due to Turkey's military operations against the YPG in northern Syria.