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Turkey’s leader opposes letting Finland, Sweden join NATO

FILE – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson exchange files as they sign a security assurance, in Harpsund, the country retreat of Swedish prime ministers, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. Finland appears on the cusp of joining NATO. Sweden could follow suit. By year’s end, they could stand among the alliance’s ranks. Russia’s war in Ukraine has provoked a public about face on membership in the two Nordic countries. They are already NATO’s closest partners, but should Russia respond to their membership moves they might soon need the organization’s military support. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool, File)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is raising opposition to allowing Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion,” Erdogan said, according to the Associated Press.

NATO’s 30 member states must unanimously agree to allow a new country to enter the alliance in addition to respective national legislatures ratifying new membership.

Finland’s president and prime minister issued a statement Thursday calling on its legislature to apply for NATO membership “without delay,” and Sweden’s leaders are expected to issue a similar announcement shortly.

The turn by both Nordic countries towards NATO membership is in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where the defensive organization is viewed as a key deterrent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions of expansion. 

Erdogan’s opposition is so-far an outlier compared to welcoming statements from the Secretary-General of NATO and some of its founding members, including the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Iceland, to name a few.  

The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing Sweden and other Scandinavian countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.

Turkey and Greece have tense relations with conflict on multiple fronts over energy exploration in the Mediterranean Sea and on the divided island of Cyprus. 

“Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said.

He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” from when it agreed to readmit Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action had allowed Greece “to take an attitude against Turkey by taking NATO behind it.”

Turkey and Greece have tense relations with conflict on multiple fronts over energy exploration in the Mediterranean Sea and on the divided island of Cyprus.

This story was updated at 9:41 a.m.

This story is supplemented by reporting from the AP’s Jari Tanner and Suzan Fraser.

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