Turkey dashes hopes of Nato membership of Sweden, Finland

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited concerns over "terrorists" from Turkey's separatist regions in both countries. PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (BLOOMBERG) - Turkey does not favour Sweden and Finland joining Nato, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul on Friday (May 13), dashing the two countries' hopes of easy accession to the military alliance.

Mr Erdogan cited concerns over the presence of "terrorists" in both countries. Turkey has previously complained that supporters of separatist Kurdish militants fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast have been freely roaming in Europe.

Any enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requires unanimous approval of the alliance's members. Turkey has been a Nato member since 1952.

"We are following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we are not in a positive mindset," Mr Erdogan said in televised remarks after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

"Scandinavian countries are like guest houses of terrorist organisations. They even take part in their parliaments. At this point, it is not possible for us to look at it positively."

Some alleged supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Mr Erdogan says masterminded a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, have also fled to Europe including some Scandinavian countries.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said he expects all allies to welcome the countries' prospective membership and that the accession process would be swift.

Spokesmen for the alliance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

Despite their orientation towards the United States and western Europe, Finland and Sweden had bet since the Cold War that their national security was best protected by staying out of Nato.

They aimed to avoid disturbing the military balance in the Baltic Sea region and provoking Russia. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked a rethinking in both countries.

Turkey has sought a middle ground over the war in Ukraine. The government in Ankara has been reluctant to burn its bridges with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in part fearing a rupture would put Turkish forces deployed in Syria at risk of attack by Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

But it has supplied Kyiv with lethal Turkish-made drones and shut its straits and air space to Russian military ships and aircraft.

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