Turkey tells US it wants 'concrete steps' from Finland, Sweden for NATO bids

Turkey has objected to the two countries joining the Western defense alliance.

NATO, Turkish, Swedish and Finnish flags are seen in this illustration taken May 18, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)
NATO, Turkish, Swedish and Finnish flags are seen in this illustration taken May 18, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

A chief adviser to Turkey's president told his US counterpart that Turkey wanted "concrete steps" on the existence of what it calls "terrorist organizations" in Finland and Sweden before it would consider their NATO bids, the Turkish presidency said.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Ibrahim Kalin, chief foreign policy adviser to President Tayyip Erdogan, spoke on Monday to discuss the NATO bids and the war in Ukraine, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Turkey has objected to the two countries joining the Western defense alliance on the grounds that they harbor people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and others it deems terrorists, and because Finland and Sweden halted arms exports to Turkey in 2019.

"[I]t is imperative for Sweden and Finland to take concrete steps regarding the terrorist organizations that threaten Turkey's national security."

Ibrahim Kalin, Chief foreign policy adviser to the Turkish president

In a statement, the Turkish presidency said Kalin had told Sullivan in a phone call that nations wanting to join NATO must "internalize the alliance's values and principles on security and counter-terrorism."

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo)Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo)

"It was emphasized that it is imperative for Sweden and Finland to take concrete steps regarding the terrorist organizations that threaten Turkey's national security," it added.

White House comments

The White House said Sullivan in the call "expressed support for Turkey’s continued direct talks with Sweden and Finland to resolve concerns over their applications for NATO membership, which the US strongly supports."

Sweden and Finland have said they condemn terrorism and are open to dialogue. All 30 NATO members must approve plans to enlarge NATO.

Erdogan said in comments published in The Economist on Monday that Turkey's commitment to NATO was unchanged and called on allies to focus their efforts on "persuading" the candidate countries.

"Sweden's and Finland's uncompromising insistence on joining the alliance has added an unnecessary item to NATO's agenda," he said. "There is no authority in Ankara that can be told what to do by any country that is unwilling to fight terrorism."

Sullivan also "reiterated the importance of refraining from escalation in Syria to preserve existing ceasefire lines and avoid any further destabilization," the White House said.