Membership requires the approval of the Turkish parliament, so Erdogan’s comments suggest that efforts by Sweden and neighboring Finland to join NATO are now a distant prospect.
– If you can’t show this much respect, then I’m sorry, but you won’t see any support from us on the NATO issue – Erdogan said on Monday after the cabinet meeting, without specifying whether this meant that the door to negotiations was now closed.
– Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy in Stockholm can no longer expect our support for NATO membership – Erdogan said, according to Reuters.
It is only waiting for Turkish and Hungarian ratification
Sweden and Finland applied for membership in the alliance last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. All but two of the 30 NATO members – Turkey and Hungary – ratified the applications of the Nordic countries. Hungary has said it plans to do so at the opening of parliament next month, so it is seen as a formality.
That would leave Turkey as the only obstacle to enlargement, which NATO diplomats had hoped to finalize by the Vilnius summit in July.
Turkey has raised significant objections to the Nordic countries’ admission to the alliance, pointing to their alleged support for Kurdish groups it considers a terrorist threat. In particular, it demanded that Sweden do more to rein in Kurdish groups before agreeing to its admission to NATO.
The burning of the Koran in Stockholm raised a storm
Right-wing Danish activist Rasmus Paludan set fire to a copy of the Koran on Saturday near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Paludan, who was convicted of racism in Denmark and also holds Swedish citizenship, became known for a series of provocative burnings of the Islamic holy book, which led to protests and riots in the Muslim-majority suburbs of Sweden last year. Before burning the Koran on Saturday, he said his goal was to promote freedom of expression.
Turkey is very sensitive about any hostile act towards Islam, and Erdogan is trying to strengthen the support of nationalists and religious conservatives ahead of the elections in May, according to “Bloomberg”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he is in close contact with the officials of Sweden, Finland and Turkey. He criticized “the kind of behavior” seen on the streets of Stockholm, but said it was not illegal and that “freedom of speech is a very precious right.”
Stavridis: “No one wants to choose between Turkey and Sweden and Finland in NATO”
James Stavridis, the former supreme commander of NATO for Europe, in an article for “Bloomberg” published on Sunday referred to the possibility of the alliance expelling Turkey if it blocks the admission of Sweden and Finland. He pointed out that nobody wants to choose between Turkey in NATO or Finland and Sweden, but that it is up to Erdogan to ensure that this does not happen.
Stavridis indicated that Turkey is taking a “counterproductive stance” on what it sees as Nordic nations’ support for terrorist groups among Turkey’s Kurdish minority, particularly their refusal to extradite dozens of Kurds sought by the government. Emphasizing that “the big challenge for the alliance is not terrorism but Russia’s unconscionable invasion of Ukraine”, Stavridis stated:
“At some point in the near future, some NATO members will start asking: ‘If this is a choice between Sweden/Finland and Turkey, maybe we should look at our options.’ That would be a mistake. Turkey boasts the second largest army in NATO, has important facilities, including Incirlik Air Base, and hosts the overall NATO Land Warfare Command in Izmir”.
“NATO needs Turkey to continue to be an active and positive member. He should also add Finland and Sweden. Nobody wants to choose between them. It is up to Erdogan to ensure that this does not happen,” Stavridis wrote.