Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed strong views against Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO. He has accused the two Nordic countries, in particular Sweden, of serving as a refuge for the “terrorists” of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Ankara’s bête noire. However, will Turkey go all way and block the accession process? FRANCE 24 takes a closer look.
Turkey has consistently adopted different positions to that of other countries within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After buying an anti-missile system from Russia in 2019, Ankara is once again alone in opposing Finnish and Swedish membership.
“How can we trust them? Sweden is a breeding ground for terrorist organisations (…) We will not support giving NATO membership,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, May 16, after the two Nordic countries had formally decided to apply for membership.
Officially, Ankara is angered by the close ties that these two countries, in particular Sweden, have with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed political group. Formed in 1978, the PKK has been designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, including the US and EU.
“Sweden occupies a specific place in the Turkish diaspora. Since the 1980s, the country has taken in many political refugees, many of whom are suspected by Turkey of being PKK militants. This is a long-standing dispute between Stockholm and Ankara,” said Élise Massicard, a specialist in the political sociology of contemporary Turkey and a researcher at Sciences Po. “According to a widespread view among Turkish nationalists, the reason the PKK still exists, despite 40 years of a war waged with extraordinary means, is because it has these ‘rear bases’ outside Turkey,” added Massicard.
‘Right of veto’
Ankara has made it clear that it wants to use Sweden and Finland’s applications as a tool to weaken support for Kurdish separatist groups. “We must absolutely stop supporting terrorist organisations (…). I am not saying this as a bargaining chip, but because this is what it means to be allies,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said Sunday in Berlin, on the sidelines of one of the organisation’s informal meetings.
In theory, Turkey has every right to block Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO. As per Article 10 of its founding treaty, the two Scandinavian countries must convince all 30 members of the organisation of the merits of their application.