NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg supported Turkey’s stance regarding opposition to Sweden and Finland’s membership bid over their support for terrorist groups.
Stoltenberg told Spanish media that no country, other than Turkey, has suffered from terrorist attacks and that Ankara, as an important NATO ally, has legitimate security concerns that need to be addressed and resolved.
The NATO chief also objected to Spanish journalists’ attempt to equalize the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the YPG and Kurds. I have noted that there are several Kurdish groups and the PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by the European Union.
Stoltenberg spoke ahead of the NATO Summit that is expected to be held in Madrid in late June. He noted that Sweden and Finland may attend the summit but it would be difficult for them to do so if they do not respond to Turkey’s demands before June 28.
Stoltenberg continued by saying that his goal is to ensure that this process takes place in a speedy manner and that the sides still have time to figure out problems.
Turkey said it would not view the applications of Finland and Sweden positively, mainly citing their history of supporting terrorist organizations, including the PKK/YPG. In response to a Turkish operation against the YPG in 2019, Sweden and Finland, among others, imposed restrictions on arms exports to Turkey. Over the last five years, both Sweden and Finland have also failed to agree to Ankara’s requests for the extradition of dozens of terrorists, including members of the PKK and the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has swung political and public opinion in Finland and neighboring Sweden in favor of NATO membership as a possible deterrent against any future Russian aggression.
Stoltenberg said the alliance would assess the membership bid as quickly as possible, but stressed that the security interests of all allies “have to be taken into account,” referring to Turkey’s objections.
All 30 members of the alliance must agree before any new members can join.