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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Ankara may agree to Finland joining NATO: Erdogan

Turkey has raised the possibility of supporting Finland's NATO application while opposing Sweden, underscoring the deterioration of relations between Ankara and Stockholm.

Türkiye may show a different approach to Finland’s NATO bid than Sweden, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.

“If NATO and these countries (Finland and Sweden) take such a decision, we, as Türkiye, think that we may evaluate the applications separately, but first of all, NATO and these countries have to decide,” Cavusoglu told a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart Joao Gomes Cravinho in the capital Ankara.

“I think it would be fair to distinguish between a problematic country and a less problematic country,” he added.

Cavusoglu said his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto and he made an assessment during a phone talk after Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Sunday remarks on Ankara’s attitude towards Finland’s NATO bid.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24, 2022.

But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.

Under a memorandum signed last June between Türkiye, Sweden, and Finland, the two Nordic countries, pledged to take steps against terrorists in order to gain membership in the NATO alliance.

Unanimous agreement from all NATO members, including Türkiye, is needed for any new members to be admitted to the alliance.

Türkiye says the countries, particularly Sweden, need to do more, especially in the wake of a provocative terrorist demonstrations and burning of copies of the holy Quran in Stockholm.

In the deal, Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide support to terrorist groups such as the PKK and its offshoots, and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Türkiye, and extradite terror suspects to Türkiye, among other things.

Cavusoglu said both the Nordic countries, NATO and some allied countries want the membership process of the two countries to progress together, and which is why the tripartite agreement was signed.

Talking of Finland, he said positive statements have been made along with practical developments regarding restrictions on exports of defense industry products to Türkiye, but there were no provocations.

Read More: Türkiye denies link between F-16 deal and Nordic NATO bids

“There are radical groups there, too, with different ideologies, apart from the supporters of PKK terrorist organization who want to prevent Finland’s membership,” he said.

Reiterating Ankara’s commitment to NATO’s enlargement, he said: “We have no problems with Finland and Sweden, and understand their security concern, it is legitimate.”

He said two main threats are mentioned in NATO documents. “One of them is Russia, and we understand that they are worried about it. The other is terrorism and therefore, Türkiye’s concerns should not only be understood but also met. That’s why we signed the tripartite memorandum,” the top Turkish diplomat reiterated.

Pointing out that some steps have been taken in Sweden to address Ankara’s concerns, Cavusoglu said: “But in concrete terms, unfortunately, there are backsteps due to the provocations of groups that want to prevent Sweden’s NATO membership.”

Sweden is still allowing terrorist groups including the PKK and FETO to recruit people and use legal bank accounts for illegal funding, he said.


Türkiye, Portugal ties

Cavusoglu said he discussed with Cravinho many issues including bilateral trade, the defense industry, education, tourism, Russia’s war on Ukraine and NATO enlargement.

They also exchanged views on the developments in the Caucasus, the normalization processes of Azerbaijan-Armenia, Türkiye-Armenia, and the stability of the South Caucasus.

Celebrating the 180th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Portugal, he said: “The relations between the two countries have always been at an excellent level.”

“We have political consultations with Portugal across Africa, but we agreed to cooperate more closely, he said, adding that Türkiye wants to strengthen cooperation with Portugal within the scope of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, of which Ankara has been an observer member since 2014.

For his part, Cravinho said “Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting all of us and Türkiye has been playing a very important role.”

We recognize Türkiye’s significant investment in Africa and consider it “very positive,” he added.

Anadolu Agency Story with additional input from Global Village Space News Desk.