Sweden and Finland’s final and largest hurdle to join NATO may be Turkey, who has voiced staunch opposition to allowing the two countries to join the organization. Turkey has largely cited the two Nordic countries’ policies towards Kurdish fightingand political groups that Turkey views as terrorist organizations.
Appreciate sincere discussion with SDC’s Ilham Ahmad on the situation in northeastern Syria. Sweden remains active partner. pic.twitter.com/MtKt6Eq9eD
— Ann Linde (@AnnLinde) December 10, 2021
Sweden has long been an active partner with Kurdish forces in Syria, namely the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Last December, Sweden pledged an additional $376 million in aid for 2023 for “strengthening resilience, human security and freedom from violence.” Finland has also been a long time partner with the Kurds, specifically the Peshmerga in Iraq during the fight against ISIS. In recent years, Finland has looked to increase relations and business investments in the greater Erbil area. Both countries imposed an arms embargo on Turkey following their 2019 offensive into north Syria, code named “Operation Peace Spring” that targeted Kurdish fighting groups.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he doesn’t “hold positive views” on the idea of the countries joining NATO, further accusing the two countries of being “guesthouses for terrorist organisations.” He also said “we would not say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey to join NATO, a security organization, during this process.”
Erdogan added that “They are even members of the parliament in some countries. t is not possible for us to be in favor,” which is in reference to the sic Kurdish Parliament members in Sweden.
Ahead of a meeting with Swedish and Finnish officials over the weekend in Berlin, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu also accused the countries of “openly supporting and are engaging with the PKK/YPG terrorist organization,” which has been “attacking Turkey and killing Turkish troops and people.”
“Therefore, it is unacceptable and outrageous that our friends and allies are supporting this terrorist organization. And because of our fight against this terrorist organization, there have been export restrictions on the defense industry products that we are importing from allies and some countries that are planning to be members of NATO.”
After the meeting, Çavusoglu told reporters “Security guarantees are definitely needed. They need to end their support for terrorist organizations.” He added that “We have explained to member countries during the NATO meeting the support of Sweden and Finland to terrorist organizations. We have voiced openly especially the weapons support of Sweden. The statements of the Swedish foreign minister so far, have not been constructive but provocative.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated, however, that he is “confident we’ll be able to find common ground, consensus on how to move on membership issues.”