- Mar 6, 2018
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Turkey blasts Swedish, Finnish support for rebels at NATO meetingTurkey’s foreign minister has described as “unacceptable and outrageous” the support that prospective new NATO members Sweden and Finland give to the PKK, a Kurdish rebel group designated a “terrorist” organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.
The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has waged a rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, and Ankara’s criticism of Sweden and Finland has potentially complicated plans for NATO’s enlargement.
“The problem is that these two countries are openly supporting and engaging with PKK and YPG [People’s Protection Units],” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday as he arrived in Berlin for a meeting with his NATO counterparts.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said earlier on Saturday that Turkey had not shut the door to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, but negotiations are needed with the Nordic countries and a clampdown on what Ankara views as terrorist activities.
Turkey considers YPG, the US-backed Kurdish fighters based in Syria, a “terrorist” organisation. Ankara views YPG as a PKK affiliate.
“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Kalin, who is also the president’s top foreign policy adviser, told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.
Kalin said the PKK was fundraising and recruiting in Europe and its presence was “strong and open and acknowledged” in Sweden, in particular.
Asked whether Turkey risked being too transactional at a time of war, and when Finnish and Swedish public opinion favours NATO membership, Kalin said, “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.
Kalin said Russia’s sharp criticism of Finland and Sweden for their plans to join NATO was not a factor in Turkey’s position.