ANKARA (Reuters) – Sweden and Finland must expel or extradite some 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before parliament approves the two countries’ NATO membership, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday evening.
Stockholm and Helsinki asked last year to join the Transatlantic Alliance, a shift in their security policy in the context of the invasion launched by Russia in Ukraine.
It is necessary that the 30 member countries of NATO validate these candidacies. Turkey and Hungary have not yet done so.
Ankara in particular asks Sweden to adopt a clearer position with regard to a Kurdish group and militants which it presents as terrorists and at the origin of the 2016 putsch attempt.
“We said, if you don’t hand over your terrorists to us, we can’t approve (NATO membership application) by parliament anyway,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in reference to a press conference. organized last November with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
“For this to pass through Parliament, you all first need to hand over to us the more than 100, some 130 of these terrorists,” he added.
In Helsinki, the Turkish president’s comments were interpreted as an angry reaction to an incident in Sweden last week. An effigy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hanged during a small protest in Stockholm.
“This is probably a reaction to the events of the last few days,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told public television, adding that he was not informed of any new official request from Turkey.
In separate comments, Ulf Kristersson on Monday expressed optimism, saying Sweden was “in a good position” to secure Ankara’s approval for NATO membership.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Saturday that time was running out for parliament to ratify these candidacies, as presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for May.
(Report Ece Toksabay; French version Jean Terzian)