Turkey’s President Erdogan signals he’ll block Finland and Sweden’s NATO applications, claiming they’re home to ‘terrorist organizations’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017.Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images

  • Sweden and Finland’s ascent to NATO membership hit a roadblock Friday.

  • Turkey’s president said he wouldn’t accept either country joining as they are home to “terrorist organizations.”

  • All current NATO members must agree to any new nation joining the alliance.

Turkey’s president suggested that he will attempt to stop Sweden and Finland from joining NATO.

Sweden and Finland are soon expected to apply to join the military alliance, a development prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that he did not support their plans.

“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” he said, according to Reuters.

“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said.

Turkey has accused Western governments like Sweden of backing terrorists over their support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that was formed in 2015 and has been the West’s primary partner in the fight against ISIS. The dominant fighting force in the SDF is the the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization. The US government’s support for the SDF in the campaign against ISIS has also generated tensions with Turkey.

Any decision on NATO enlargement requires unanimous agreement from current members, meaning that Turkey failing to approve their entry would halt any application.

No other NATO members have expressed opposition to Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said both countries would be welcomed into the alliance with open arms.

Finland and Sweden joining NATO would represent one of the most significant consequences of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine yet, and would mark a drastic change in policy for both countries. During the Cold War, Finland and Sweden remained neutral or militarily non-aligned. They became NATO partner countries following the collapse of the Soviet Union, stopping short of pursuing full membership. But Russia’s war in Ukraine prompted a rapid shift toward NATO membership in both countries. Recent polling in Finland and Sweden has shown record levels of support for joining the alliance.

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