Finland and Sweden joined the United States on Thursday in asking Turkey for its greenlight soon to join Nato, saying they have been fulfilling promises to Turkey to extradite PKK militants.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers, meeting jointly in Washington, steered clear of airing any frustration or threatening Turkey, the one nation holding up the Nordic nations’ bids to join the transatlantic alliance.
“I’m confident that Nato will formally welcome Finland and Sweden as members soon,” Blinken told a joint news conference.
“Both countries have taken significant concrete actions to fulfill their commitments, including those related to the security concerns on the part of our ally Turkey,” he said.
Turkey has demanded that the two countries take tougher stances on Kurdish militants that it considers terrorists in exchange for backing their Nato bids.
Sweden last week extradited Mahmut Tat, who is wanted by Turkey for membership in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that commitments made earlier this year to Turkey by both countries were being “very much fulfilled.”
He voiced hope that Sweden and Finland would join by February, the date when the other initial holdout, Hungary, has pledged to approve their accession.
“Of course what we are still missing is a clear date and clear plan of the Turkish parliament to deal with this issue,” Haavisto said.
“We know that Turkey is going to elections. Of course our hope is that this decision should come from Turkey rather sooner than later,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is up for reelection in June and some experts have speculated that he will show an uncompromising attitude until then.
Sweden and Finland both have close ties with Western militaries but have historically stopped short of open alliances for fear of angering nearby Russia.
Their hesitation changed after Russia invaded Ukraine, which had unsuccessfuly sought for years to join Nato, which commits to mutual defense of all its members.
Turkey calls Sweden’s extradition of PKK militant ‘a start’
Turkey on Monday welcomed Sweden’s extradition of a convicted Kurdish militant but signalled it expected more action before it would approve Stockholm’s application to join Nato.Ankara has demanded that both Sweden and neighbouring Finland take tougher stances on Kurdish groups it deems “terrorists” in exchange for backing their Nato bids.
“The return of the PKK terrorist is a start showing (Sweden’s) sincerity,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told state television TRT. “We hope new ones will follow,” he said.
Sweden on Friday extradited Mahmut Tat, who is wanted by Ankara for membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.
Tat, who was sentenced to more than six years in jail by a Turkish court, fled to Sweden in 2015 but was denied an asylum by the Swedish authorities. Tat was detained by Turkish police shortly after landing at Istanbul airport and jailed by an Istanbul court.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden in May dropped decades of military non-alignment and applied to join Nato.
The bid needs unanimous approval from all Nato members. Turkey has held back on ratifying their Nato applications despite reaching an agreement with Sweden and Finland in June.
Among its demands on the Nordic nations, Ankara says it expects Stockholm in particular to take tougher action on issues including the extradition of criminals and the freezing of terror assets.
Hungary, the only other Nato member who has yet to ratify the applications, has promised to put the issue to a vote in parliament next year.