Turkey has rejected NATO invitations to participate in trilateral talks with Finland and Sweden aimed at finding a solution to Ankara’s opposition to Nordic countries’ bids to join the Western military alliance.
Ankara demanded concrete proposals from Helsinki and Stockholm to address its terrorism concerns before agreeing to high-profile talks, according to three people familiar with the talks, forcing NATO officials to try to negotiate a deal by through bilateral talks with each country.
Spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last month, with alliance leaders saying they expected their bids to go through first approval stage in a few weeks.
But Turkey‘s objections have frozen that process, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling the two countries “incubators” of terrorists and accusing Sweden of failing to crack down on members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed militia who fought the Turks. State since the 1980s, and its affiliates.
A meeting tentatively scheduled for Wednesday between officials from the three countries and hosted by a senior NATO official did not take place, one of the three people added.
A trilateral meeting mediated by NATO officials was “the ultimate goal. . . but we are not there yet,” a senior alliance official told the Financial Times, citing Turkey’s reluctance to participate and a lack of clarity regarding Ankara’s demands on the two candidates. .
Erdoğan reiterated on Wednesday his demand for concessions from the two Nordic nations. “Until Sweden and Finland show clear, concrete and decisive steps, we will certainly not change our position on the NATO issue,” he said.
Asked about the failure to hold trilateral talks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week that “we now have a process where there have been meetings in different formats.”
He pointed out that his chief of staff was meeting with Turkey’s national security adviser and a call between him and Erdoğan, but no examples of NATO-Finland-Sweden-Turkey talks.
Stoltenberg said on Wednesday he ‘and members of his team’ were working to resolve Turkey’s ‘legitimate concerns’, and admitted he was less optimistic about the Nordic countries’ bid process than he was a month ago. .
“We have to sit down and address those concerns,” he told a news conference. “It will take longer than originally planned.”
Finland and Sweden have said they are toughening their anti-terrorism laws and may ease their terms on arms sales to Turkey once they become NATO members to try to overcome Ankara’s objections. Like Turkey, Finland and Sweden designate the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Spokespersons for the Turkish Foreign Ministry and NATO did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Ankara’s rejections of the trilateral talks.
“We are not yet panicking or desperately worried,” the senior official said, adding that a brokered deal that would see Turkey drop its objections to the two countries joining the alliance was “still in the realm of options. diplomatic”.