Turkey’s president has restated his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) – just hours after they said they would seek membership.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the two Nordic nations should not bother sending delegations to convince Turkey, a key NATO member, of their bids.
He was angered by what he saw as their willingness to host Kurdish militants.
Without the support of all NATO members, Sweden and Finland cannot join the military alliance.
On Monday, Sweden said Europe was living in a dangerous new reality, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said the move by Finland and Sweden to join the 30-member military alliance did not threaten Moscow directly – but stressed that any expansion of military infrastructure would trigger a response from the Kremlin.
At a news conference on Monday, Mr Erdogan said Turkey opposed the Finnish and the Swedish bids to join NATO, describing Sweden as a “hatchery” for terrorist organisations.
“Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation. How can we trust them?” the Turkish president said.
Turkey accused the two Nordic nations of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group it viewed as a terrorist organisation, and followers of Fethullah Gulenwho Ankara accused of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
All member states must agree that a new country can join NATO, therefore Sweden and Finland required Turkey’s support in their bid to join the military alliance.
Mr Erdogan said Swedish and Finnish delegations should not bother going to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, to convince it to approve their NATO bid.
His government has also pledged to block applications from countries that have imposed sanctions on it.
In 2019, both Nordic nations slapped an arms embargo on Ankara after its incursion into Syria.
Speaking in Parliament in Helsinki on Monday, Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, said he was surprised by Turkey’s stance, but added that his government was not interested in “bargaining” with Mr Erdogan.
Finland formally announced its bid to join NATO last week.
“NATO will strengthen Sweden, Sweden will strengthen NATO,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said at a briefing on Monday. -BBC