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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday accused Sweden and Finland of supporting terrorism, saying Ankara is unlikely to relax its opposition to Scandinavian countries joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“As long as Tayyip Erdogan is the head of the Republic of Turkey, we absolutely cannot say ‘yes’ to countries that support terrorism entering NATO,” Erdogan told reporters upon his return from Azerbaijan on Saturday. .
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO earlier this month, which would represent a historic expansion of the Western military alliance.
While NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the two Nordic countries are welcome, but all 30 member countries must unanimously approve a country’s application to join the alliance.
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Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO stems from alleged Scandinavian support for members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which Turkey and the United States States consider it a terrorist group.
The PKK, which wants to establish an ethnic homeland for the Kurds, has been at war with Turkey since 1984.
Sweden and Finland also halted arms sales to Turkey in 2019 after the country launched an incursion into northern Syria.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday he was confident Turkey would be able to resolve its differences with Sweden and Finland.
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“The United States fully supports Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance, and I remain confident that the two countries will soon become NATO allies,” Blinken told a news conference. alongside Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.
“Finland and Sweden are talking directly to and with Turkey, working on some of the concerns raised by Turkey and finding ways to address them.”
The NATO membership process typically takes eight months to a year, but the alliance has indicated it wants to speed up approval amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia viewed Finland’s NATO entry as a “threat”, although Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later downplayed the threat. decision as making “no big difference”.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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