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Turkey says Nato summit in Madrid 'not the deadline' for Finland, Sweden talks

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg says Turkey's 'legitimate' concerns over Nordic countries' bids not fully addressed
Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin gives a press conference following talks with Sweden and Finland over their bids to join Nato in Ankara, on 25 May 2022.
Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin gives a press conference in Ankara, following talks with Sweden and Finland over their bids to join Nato, on 25 May 2022 (AFP)

Turkey on Monday said it did not view next week's Nato summit in Madrid as a final deadline for resolving its objections to Finland and Sweden joining the western defence alliance.

"The Madrid Nato summit is not the deadline, so our negotiations will continue," Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told reporters.

The comments from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesperson followed a round of urgent talks in Brussels that Nato leaders had hoped would pave the way for the Nordic states' formal approval to join the bloc at the Madrid summit.

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Ankara has accused Finland and Sweden of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish separatists whose decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Ankara has also demanded the two countries lift their weapons freezes on Turkey.

"The existence of terrorist organisations must end in those countries. That is what we expect both from Finland and Sweden," Kalin said.

The Nato summit in Spain's capital will take place from 28-30 June, where the main topic of discussion will be Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week in a press conference that Nato is "close to welcoming two new members to the Alliance, and Finland and Sweden have made the historic decisions to apply for membership".

Turkey's 'legitimate' concerns not addressed

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the Nato alliance last month. All 30 Nato members need to approve their admission.

Turkey - the second-largest army in Nato - has warned that there will be no accession to membership unless they agree to extradite members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an armed struggle with the Turkish state since 1984.

Turkey, the US and the EU all designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation due to a history of deadly attacks on civilians. The group previously fought for an independent Kurdish state and now seeks autonomy for Kurdish areas.

For its part, Sweden and Finland have rejected Turkey's accusations, affirmed their recognition of the PKK as a terrorist group and vehemently denied providing it with any support.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg called the recent meeting in Brussels "constructive" while conceding that Turkey's "legitimate" concerns had still not been fully addressed.

"Turkey has legitimate security concerns over terrorism that we need to address," Stoltenberg said.

"So we will continue our talks on Finland and Sweden's applications for Nato membership, and I look forward to finding a way forward as soon as possible."