ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey can still “freeze” Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO unless the two countries take steps that meet Ankara’s security demands, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.
Last month, Turkey lifted its objection to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance but warned that it would block the process if they fail to extradite suspects with links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.
The Nordic countries’ accession still needs to be approved by the parliaments of all 30 NATO members and Turkey’s parliament could refuse to ratify the deal.
“I would like to remind once again that if these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfill our conditions, we will freeze the (accession) process,” Erdogan said in a televised addressed following a Cabinet meeting. “Our stance on this issue is very clear. The rest is up to them.”
Erdogan said that Sweden in particular was not “projecting a good image,” but didn’t elaborate.
There was no immediate reaction from Sweden and Finland to Erdogan’s comments.
Turkey accuses the two countries of being too lenient toward groups it considers to be national security threats. Turkey’s justice minister said earlier this month that the government had renewed requests for the extradition of terror suspects wanted by his country.
Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a joint memorandum during a NATO summit last month that allowed the alliance to move ahead with inviting the Nordic countries to the military alliance that seeks to enlarge and strengthen in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With the memorandum, Finland and Sweden agreed to address Turkey’s “pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly ... in accordance with the European Convention on Extradition.”