Turkey Will Block Sweden and Finland Joining NATO

Turkey has blocked talks on Finland and Sweden's entry into NATO, according to sources quoted by Middle East Eye.

Two sources told the London-based news outlet that Turkey has blocked the start of negotiations over the two Nordic countries' NATO membership, which were due to start on Thursday, at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

Newsweek has asked NATO for comment.

Turkey is reported to be blocking the two countries' bid to join the alliance because of what it sees as their lax attitude towards Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, who are considered terrorists by Ankara. The PKK, which has been fighting a war for independence against the Turkish state since 1984, is also listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the European Union due to deadly attacks the group has carried out in the country.

As the possibility of a Finnish and Swedish bid for NATO admission firmed up in recent weeks, Turkey has repeatedly said it would oppose the two countries' entry. The reason, Ankara said, was Sweden's history of hosting members of the Kurdish militant groups. On Monday, it emerged that Sweden and Finland had refused Turkey's request for the extradition of several people considered by Ankara to have links to the PKK and what it refers to as the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

Finland and Sweden deny providing any kind of support to the PKK, which is also labelled as a terrorist organization in these two countries.

But the accusation of providing support to the PKK is not the only reason for Turkish resentment against the two Nordic countries. Since 2019, Finland and Sweden have imposed sanctions against Turkey over the country's invasion of northeastern Syria.

The Turkish president's objection could block the two Nordic countries from joining the alliance, as any new member needs to be approved by all 30 NATO countries —including Turkey.

President Joe Biden is due to hold talks in Washington on Thursday with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on their NATO applications.

"I warmly welcome and strongly support the historic applications from Finland and Sweden for membership in NATO and look forward to working with the U.S. Congress and our NATO Allies to quickly bring Finland and Sweden into the strongest defensive alliance in history," Biden said in a statement.

Turkey's veto might not be related to the country's close partnership with Russia, but it certainly plays into what Moscow wants. The Kremlin has threatened Finland and Sweden over joining NATO, saying entry into the alliance would be a "mistake."

It's not the first time since the war in Ukraine began that Turkey has voted against the majority of its Western allies.

As the war broke out in Ukraine, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Russian invasion with most NATO members, but it opposed imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Update 5/19/22, 9:25 a.m. ET. This article has been updated to add context.

Turkey's President and leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party's group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) in Ankara, on May 18, 2022. Sources cited by the Middle East Eye said Turkey has blocked the start of talks on Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images