Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicated Ankara is unlikely to approve Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids anytime soon. Turkey and Hungary are the only two North Atlantic Treaty Organization members that have not consented to the Nordic states’ ascension into the alliance.
During a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Cavusoglu said “both countries are expressing that they are committed to the memorandum, but what matters is the execution,” adding “right now we cannot say that all those commitments have been lived up [to] by those countries.”
Stoltenberg disagreed with the foreign minister, insisting that “Sweden and Finland have delivered. It is time to welcome Finland and Sweden as full members of NATO.”
During a NATO summit last June, Ankara, Stockholm and Helsinki reached a trilateral agreement under which Turkey would allow the two Nordic states to join the alliance. To become a NATO member, a country must have the approval of all other alliance members.
Finland and Sweden’s disagreements with Turkey mainly stem from Ankara’s repression of its Kurdish minority population, and Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish groups. One plank in the trilateral agreement required the two NATO hopefuls to lift an arms embargo against Turkey. Helsinki and Stockholm have both taken that step.
Still, Ankara is demanding they live up to the full agreement, which requires the extradition of several Kurds to Turkey. Cavusoglu said most of the delays have been caused by Sweden, but Helsinki’s NATO application is tied to Stockholm’s bid. Turkey says it won’t give approval until both states are living up to the agreement.
The Kremlin has said it does not object to Finland and Sweden joining the North Atlantic alliance. However, Moscow threatened to deploy more weapons to the Baltic region if either country accepted the stationing of strategic weapons on their territory. Last week, a Finnish newspaper reported that Helsinki might allow the deployment of nuclear weapons if Finland is accepted into NATO, and officials from both states recently said they would not rule out such a move.