Turkey’s Erdoğan to speak to Finland amid spat over NATO membership

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he will speak to Finland on Saturday as he reiterated his opposition to Finnish and Swedish NATO membership bids over their history of hosting groups designated as terrorists by Ankara.

The Turkish president said he had discussed the issue with the Dutch prime minister on Friday and would also speak to Britain on Saturday. He did not specify who he would speak to in Finland and Britain.

Turkey is blocking the membership applications of Finland and Sweden citing their tolerance or outright support for terrorist groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a four-decade war for autonomy from Turkey at the cost of 40,000 lives. On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he told allies he would say no to Sweden and Finland.

“Of course we will continue all these discussions for the sake of not interrupting diplomacy,” Milliyet newspaper cited Erdoğan as telling reporters.

“Currently there is a terrorist organization in many European countries, especially in Germany, in the Netherlands, in Sweden, in Finland and in France,” he said.

Earlier on Friday, Finland President Sauli Niinisto said his country will commit to ensuring Turkey’s security as a future NATO member.

Niinisto made the pledge at the White House, where he met with U.S. President Joe Biden alongside Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

"Finland has always had proud and good bilateral relations with Turkey. As NATO allies, we will commit to Turkey's security, just as Turkey will commit to our security," Niinisto said in televised comments. "We take terrorism seriously. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and we are actively engaged in combating it. We are open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and constructive manner.”

Turkey says Finland and Sweden have failed to agree to requests for the extradition of dozens of terrorists over the past five years. It says they included members of the PKK and Gülen Movement, which it blames for planning a failed military coup in 2016. Both countries deny charges of supporting terrorism.

Sweden is "having a dialogue with all NATO member countries, including Turkey, on different levels to sort out any issues at hand," Andersson said.

Biden said the two countries have Washington's "full, total, complete backing" for NATO entry. The White House will submit reports on their assession to Congress ahead of a vote on membership, he said.

Erdoğan is objecting to their NATO membership ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to be held by June next year. In past elections, he has played on issues of national concern to bolster his support, which has waned over the past year due to economic instability including soaring inflation.

On Thursday, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Swedish-made AT4 rockets had been used in attacks on the Turkish army. Citing unidentified security sources, it said as many as 35 of the rockets had been found in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, where the PKK has bases, since 2018.

(This article re-leads with Erdoğan’s remarks)

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