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Erdoğan: Turkey can ‘freeze’ Finland, Sweden NATO bids if demands not met

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday threatened to “freeze” Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership bids if the Nordic countries fail to keep promises on counterterrorism measures agreed to last month.

All 30 NATO member states must individually ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s ascensions to the alliance. Erdoğan’s objections raise the prospect of Ankara delaying NATO’s expansion as the alliance seeks to project unity against Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Erdoğan agreed last month to lift Turkey’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO after the three countries signed a trilateral memorandum in Madrid that called for Helsinki and Stockholm to “address” Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects in those countries, among other measures. 

The Turkish president, in televised remarks on Monday, accused Sweden of “not showing a good image,” according to multiple media reports. 

“I would like to remind once again that if these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfill our conditions, we will freeze the [accession] process,” Erdoğan said, according to The Associated Press. “Our stance on this issue is very clear. The rest is up to them.”

Turkey has been the minority outlier in overwhelming support among the 30-member alliance for Finland and Sweden to quickly ascend to NATO, focusing criticisms against the Nordic countries on the presence of people said to be affiliated with Kurdish militia groups that Turkey condemns as terrorist organizations.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday said that the U.S. will work with Sweden, Finland and Turkey so “that this accession process and ratification process around the world is as swift and efficient as it can possibly be.” 

Price said the Biden administration wants to see Finland and Sweden ascend “as soon as possible. 

“Different countries will have to move at different speeds. … This is the modification to a treaty. It’s not something that can be done overnight, but we do want to see it completed as quickly as possible,” he said.

Last month, President Biden welcomed Erdoğan’s lifting of his hold on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, and that followed discussions between the two leaders. Biden said he also supports selling Turkey military equipment to upgrade its fleet of F-16s and provide new fighter jets to Ankara but rejected that this amounted to a “quid pro quo.” 

“There was no quid pro quo with that. It’s just, we should sell,” Biden told reporters. “I need congressional approval to be able to do that, and I think we can get that.”  

There’s strong bipartisan support in Congress to quickly ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s accessions to NATO, but lawmakers are conflicted over selling more F-16s to Turkey. 

An amendment to the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would require the administration to certify Turkey is not posing security threats to Greece before any F-16 military sale takes place. It’s unclear if the amendment will be included in the final version of the NDAA that will eventually be negotiated between House and Senate lawmakers. 

Tags Finalnd Joe Biden Joe Biden Ned Price Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Turkey Ukraine-Russia conflict

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