Turkey Blocks Sweden, Finland NATO Accession Talks; Issues List Of Demands
Turkey has issued its "list" of demands that must happen before it would accede to granting formal NATO membership to Scandinavian countries Finland and Sweden. This coming on the same day both countries handed in their formal applications. In a photo op with the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the "historic moment".
But given that for days Turkey has voiced vehement denunciation of the move, calling the countries 'terror safe-havens' over their alleged support for the outlawed Kurdish PKK (also as Sweden is home to one of the largest Kurdish communities in Europe), Brussels is in for a long-haul of gridlock as there must be consensus among the 30-member states for new entry. Within hours after an application submission ceremony, FT is reporting Turkey has already blocked the planned initial accession talks with Sweden and Finland essential to processing the requests:
Turkey has blocked Nato’s initial decision to process requests by Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance, throwing into doubt the hopes for a quick accession of the two Nordic countries. Nato ambassadors met on Wednesday with the aim of opening accession talks on the same day that Finland and Sweden submitted their applications but Ankara’s opposition stopped any vote, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
The FT report continues: "The postponement raises doubt that Nato will be able to approve the first stage of Finland’s and Sweden’s applications within one or two weeks, as secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg indicated. It also sets the stage for several days of intense diplomacy between the US, Turkey, Finland and Sweden over the issue."
Meanwhile, three "senior Turkish officials" have issued to Bloomberg key actions that Finland and Sweden must implement if they hope to gain Ankara's approval. Despite their expressing that Turkey isn't seeking to negotiate beyond the scope of Finnish, Swedish issues - other elements looming in the background are coming into play, like the blocked F-35 deal which grabbed headlines over past years.
Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently told a meeting of NATO diplomats that majority of Turkish citizens - which is the country that also happens to form NATO's second largest military - are adamantly opposed to Sweden and Finland's membership, given they host and give aid to PKK "terrorists".
Below is the list as summarized based on information in the Wednesday Bloomberg report...
1) Denounce the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and crack down on their activities in host countries
The senor officials told Bloomberg that not only must Helsinki and Stockholm take a public stance of denouncing the PKK as a 'terrorist organization' - but both governments must crackdown on PKK activities and those of its sympathizers domestically.
Likely also with the Syrian Kurdish YPG in mind, which enjoys support from Washington, Finland and Sweden must also denounce the PKK's "affiliates before being allowed to join the bloc," the senior officials said.
This has also included breaking reports of a demand for the countries to extradite identified 'terrorists' to Turkey...
#Turkey's Erdoğan blocks @NATO accession talks with Sweden and Finland; asks for extradition of 30 'terrorists'.— Yannis Koutsomitis (@YanniKouts) May 18, 2022
2) Immediately lift arms export restrictions imposed in 2019
A number of EU countries, including Sweden and Finland, imposed arms export restrictions on Turkey due to its cross border military campaign against Syrian Kurdish militias - most especially the YPG, which Turkey's leaders see as but an extension of the PKK. However, the YPG has enjoyed the longtime backing of the West, with US troops having for years at this point trained them on the ground in northeast Syria, enraging Turkish leaders.
"Turkey also wants Sweden and Finland to put an end to arms-export restrictions they imposed on Turkey, along with several other European Union members, after its 2019 incursion into Syria to push the YPG back from the frontier," the officials were quoted in Bloomberg as saying.
3) Washington should restore Turkey's participation in F-35 program
Though not directly a demand of Finland and Sweden, the issue of Washington previously halting the F-35 program for Turkey still looms large.
"Turkey wants to be re-included in the F-35 advanced aircraft program, from which it was barred after it bought S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia," Bloomberg writes based on its Turkish government sources. "It also has an outstanding request to the US to purchase dozens of F-16s warplanes and upgrade kits for its existing fleet."
4) Lift sanctions related to Turkey's possession of Russian S-400s
As part of the Turkish wish-list, Bloomberg notes, "Moreover, Turkey wants the US to lift sanctions over its possession of the S-400 missiles."
This was closely related to the saga of the blocked F-35 deal, widely viewed as a humiliation for the Erdogan government, and which took US-Turkey relations to a low point under the Trump administration, despite the two leaders at the time being viewed as on very friendly terms.
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Meanwhile, the issue of Turkey for many years having unsuccessfully sought EU membership while at the same time more recently having to stand by as enthusiastic talk emerges of 'fast-tracking' others (such as Ukraine) has without doubt added insult to injury...
I would ask full EU membership for Turkey in return of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership if I were Erdogan.— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) May 18, 2022
Fair and neat.