Turkey has legitimate security concerns about Finland and Sweden joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. According to Reuters, in a meeting between Stoltenberg and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on Sunday, June 12, Stoltenberg stated, “These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism; it’s about weapons exports.”
Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine. Turkey, one of NATO’s 30 member countries, opposes the Nordic countries’ admittance.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has explained that his opposition stems from the countries harboring what Turkey considers terrorist groups and affiliates, such as the Kurdistan Workers Party, also known as PKK.
The PKK is a Turkish terrorist organization that primarily attacks security and government officials in the southeast portion of Turkey. While PKK originated in the 70s, rebel attacks from the group picked up in 2015. They have not stopped since, according to the BBC. In 2016 the group participated in an attempted coup against President Erdogan, inciting a massive crackdown by government officers and officials.
At the meeting between Stoltenberg and Niinisto, Stoltenberg lamented that Erdogan’s resistance was warranted. “We have to remember and understand that no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkiye,” he said. Turkiye is Erdogan’s preferred pronunciation of his country.
Stoltenberg and the Western military alliance consider Turkey a key ally, particularly because it is strategically situated on the Black Sea between Europe and the Middle East. Turkey’s support of Ukraine since the February 24 Russian invasion is another reason.
Stoltenberg said that no changes have occurred in the discussions with Turkey about Sweden and Finland’s NATO applications. But the secretary general reported negotiations would continue, seeking eventual consensus between Turkey and the Nordic countries.
Meanwhile, Erdogan demands that before Finland or Sweden are permitted to join NATO, the countries must lift restrictions on arms exports to Turkey. They must also extradite members of the PKK and other Kurdish terrorist groups that oppose Erdogan’s government, according to Aljazeera.