Turkish Erdogan still against Finnish and Swedish NATO candidacies

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president told reporters he still intends to block Finland and Sweden from joining NATO.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said meetings this week with the Finnish and Swedish delegations had not been “at the expected level”, noting that no action had been taken to alleviate Turkey’s security concerns.

“As long as Tayyip Erdogan is the head of the Republic of Turkey, we cannot say ‘yes’ to countries that support terrorism that join NATO,” he told reporters on his plane after a visit. in Azerbaijan on Saturday, according to the daily Hurriyet. .

Erdogan referred to an interview on Swedish public television with Salih Muslim, a member of the Syrian Kurdish administration in northeast Syria, on the evening of the delegation meeting. He cited this as evidence of Sweden’s support for Syrian Kurdish militants whom Turkey sees as an extension of a banned Kurdish group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984.

“They are neither honest nor genuine,” Erdogan said and vowed not to allow countries that “hug terrorists to their bosoms, feed terrorists to their knees.” He also accused Germany, France and the Netherlands of having made the same “mistake” by supporting terrorism.

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, form the backbone of US-led forces in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey has been fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since 1984 in Turkey and northern Iraq, where it has stepped up its operations. Ankara has also carried out cross-border operations in Syria to keep the YPG away from its border, saying they are one with the PKK.

All NATO members must endorse the two Nordic nations’ historic bid to join the alliance, propelled by concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, which commands the alliance’s second-largest army, has said it will not allow them to join unless steps are taken, including lifting restrictions on arms sales to Turkey. .

Erdogan added that he would speak by phone with Russian and Ukrainian leaders on Monday.