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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said leaders from Sweden and Finland should not expect its support for NATO membership until Western nations kowtow to its demands.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg applauded the formal bids to join the alliance and called it a “good day at a critical moment for our security” as Russia continues to wage war in Ukraine.
“All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment which we must seize,” he said.
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But Turkey has used the opportunity to push its own political agenda as Stockholm and Helsinki look to shore up their security defenses amid repeated threats from Moscow.
“Our only expectation from our NATO allies is for them to show the same good faith to Turkey’s efforts aimed at protecting its own borders and reinforcing its security and stability,” Erdogan told members of parliament Wednesday, according to a Turkish news outlet. “We expect our allies to first understand our sensitivities and then to respect and finally, if possible, to support.”
Erodgan alleged that not only Sweden and Finland, but NATO itself has turned a blind eye to the “harassment” Turkey has endured at the hands of Kurdish “terrorist” groups like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
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The U.S., European Union and Turkey have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization, but its ties to the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) – an affiliate group fighting in Syria – have strained geopolitical relations.
Western forces, including the U.S., have backed the YPG in its fight against ISIS.
“NATO’s enlargement is meaningful to us only to the extent that our sensitivities are respected. Asking us for support for NATO membership while providing every kind of support to the PKK/YPG terrorist organization amounts to incoherence, to say the least,” he said according to Turkish media.
The Turkish president said his nation has unfairly shouldered the burden of the decade-long war by hosting millions of displaced people. He argued that Western nations, despite their relative involvement in the Syrian conflict, have not taken in enough refugees.
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He further condemned Sweden and Finland’s refusal to repatriate 33 people Turkey has requested for their alleged links to terrorist organizations.
“So you won’t give us back terrorists, but you ask us for NATO membership? NATO is an entity for security, an organization for security. Therefore, we cannot say ‘yes’ to this security organization being deprived of security,” he added.