Erdoğan challenges NATO, U.S. over Finland, Sweden membership, sanctions-lifting in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed his strong opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, claiming the countries are “home to many terrorist organisations,” Reuters reported on Friday. 

“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” the Turkish president told reporters. 

Finland announced its plan to join the security alliance on Thursday, with neighbouring Sweden expected to follow suit in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Reuters noted that Turkey has officially supported NATO enlargement since it joined in its early years. Unanimous agreement among all members is necessary before any new members are granted admission into the 30-member alliance. 

However, Erdoğan opposes this, insisting NATO made a mistake by allowing Greece into the alliance. Turkey and Greece became NATO members back in 1952. 

“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes,” he said. “Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organisations.” 

“They are even members of parliament in some countries,” he added. “It is not possible for us to be in favour.” 

Later on Friday, Erdoğan also denounced a decision by the United States to lift sanctions in regions of Syria controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as being unacceptable.

Erdoğan said it was “not possible’’ for Turkey to accept the decision by Washington, Hürriyet newspaper reported, but added that Ankara was waiting on a statement from U.S. President Joe Biden on the matter before taking a clear stance.

Washington on Thursday authorized some foreign investment in areas of northern Syria, which remain outside government control, including  areas in north and east Syria controlled by the U.S.-allied SDF, Washington’s main ally against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The decision is an exception to the U.S. Caesar Act, which bans companies from investing or doing business with Damascus.

Turkey sees the SDF and its affiliates as offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a four-decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil and has led a number of cross-border offensives against the Kurdish-led group over the years.

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