What is Turkey's stand on Finland, Sweden joining NATO?
- Erdogan stunned NATO allies when he said that Turkey could not back NATO expansion
- But Turkey expressed willingness to discuss Finland, Sweden plans to join NATO on Saturday
- Sweden and Finland have stayed outside NATO since its inception in 1949
"A big majority of the Turkish people are against the membership of those countries who are supporting PKK terrorist organization ... but these are the issues that we need to talk of course with our NATO allies as well as these countries," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the remarks while arriving in Berlin for talks with NATO partners as well as Finland and Sweden.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is a terrorist organisation classified by the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States.
President Tayyip Erdogan stunned NATO allies and the two Nordic countries seeking membership when he said on Friday that Turkey could not back NATO expansion since Finland and Sweden were "home to many terrorist organisations."
Any country wishing to join the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance must have the unanimous consent of the military alliance's members. The US and other members have been attempting to clarify Ankara's position.
Sweden and its closest military ally, Finland, have stayed outside NATO since its inception in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Both countries are leery of antagonising their major neighbour, but security worries have grown since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Stockholm is largely expected to follow Helsinki's lead and seek for membership in the 30-nation military alliance as soon as Monday.
Ibrahim Kalin, the president's chief foreign policy advisor, talked to Reuters in an interview in Istanbul. The violent Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been classified a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, is fund-raising and recruiting across Europe, according to Kalin, and its presence is "strong, open, and acknowledged" in Sweden in particular.
"What needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to...exist in those countries," Kalin said.
"NATO membership is always a process. We will see how things go. But this is the first point that we want to bring to the attention of all the allies as well as to Swedish authorities," he added. "Of course we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with Swedish counterparts."
Turkey, NATO's second-largest military member, has publicly advocated enlargement since joining the US-led alliance 70 years ago.
For years, Turkey has chastised Sweden and other European countries for their treatment of terrorist organisations, particularly supporters of US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.
According to Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty, an attack on any NATO country should be considered an attack on all. While Sweden and Finland have long had close ties with NATO, they are not covered by the organization's security guarantee.
Turkey has criticised Russia's invasion, helped arm Ukraine - which is not in NATO - and tried to facilitate talks between the sides but opposes sanctions on Moscow. It wants NATO "to address the concerns of all members, not just some," Kalin said.
When asked whether Turkey risks being too transactional during a time of conflict, and at a time when public opinion in Finland and Sweden favours NATO membership, he answered, "One hundred percent of our population is very upset with the PKK and FETO (Gulenist) presence in Europe."
"If they (Finland and Sweden) have a public concerned about their own national security, we have a public that is equally concerned about our own security," he said. "We have to see this from a mutual point of view."
Kalin stated that Russia's harsh criticism of Finland and Sweden's intentions had no bearing on Turkey's position.