Erdogan threatens to veto Sweden’s Nato bid
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he may allow Finland to join Nato while blocking Sweden’s membership.
He criticised Sweden’s refusal to extradite ethnic Kurds which Ankara claims have links to militant groups, the failed 2016 coup attempt and other critics of his populist administration.
Erdogan faces a tightly contested election on May 14 and is trying to energise his conservative and nationalist support base.
“If you absolutely want to join Nato, you will return these terrorists to us,” Erdogan said.
Turkey recently suspended talks to accept Sweden and Finland as Nato members.
Stockholm has seen several divisive recent protests, including one where a Koran was burned by a far-right politician.
Ankara was outraged by a Swedish prosecutor’s decision not to charge a Kurdish support group that hung an effigy of Erdogan by its ankles outside Stockholm City Court.
The Swedish authorities condemned the protests while defending free speech and assembly laws.
Sweden and Finland applied to join Nato in 2022 after decades of military non-alignment in the wake of the Ukraine invasion by Putin. Sweden remained neutral during the Second World War.
The two applications must be unanimously approved by the 30-nation alliance members and Turkey and pro-Russian Hungary have failed to ratify the Nato bids. The Hungarian parliament is expected to approve both bids in February.
In a speech, Erdogan said: “We gave Sweden a list of 120 people and told them to extradite those terrorists in their country. If you don’t extradite them, then sorry about that.”
Sweden hosts a larger Kurdish community than Finland.
Turkey demanded Sweden distance itself from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and European Union. It took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.
The Turkish foreign ministry at the weekend issued a travel warning for European countries over anti-Turkish demonstrations and alleged Islamophobia.
It cited increased anti-Turkish protests by “groups with links to terror groups” in reference to the PKK.
Pro-Kurdish groups waved PKK and affiliated flags during protests in Sweden after Stockholm and Helsinki promised to prevent PKK activity in their countries.
Sweden amended its constitution to allow tougher anti-terrorist legislation demanded by Ankara.
An effigy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Stockholm. Picture credit: YouTube