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Turkey is still holding up Sweden, Finland’s NATO membership

Turkey has gone back and forth on its support over Sweden’s NATO membership. Here’s what’s happening

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to the crowd during a welcome ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to the crowd during a welcome ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Sept. 6, 2022. Turkey’s president has suggested his country might approve Finland’s application for NATO membership before taking any action on Sweden’s.

Armin Durgut, Associated Press

Nine months after their original bid, Sweden and Finland are still awaiting NATO membership after continued pushback from Turkey over Sweden’s membership. This comes after Turkey backpedaled on its decision to drop its veto against Sweden.

The news: Turkey is still withholding its support of Sweden’s membership, due to continued allegations over Sweden’s involvement with terrorist groups, per Euronews.

  • Turkey, however, has said it will approve Finland’s membership independently from Sweden, according to Reuters. But the Scandinavian countries said that they will only join the military alliance together.
  • “We embarked on this journey together and we do the journey towards membership together,” said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, per Reuters.

What’s next? Sweden has recently tightened its anti-terror laws in hopes of garnering Turkey’s trust, Euronews reported.

  • The country recently amended its constitution in order to further penalize acts that could be linked to terrorist behavior.
  • Sweden’s new law states that “handling equipment, organising rallies, managing transport for organizing terrorists — or even cooking for them — would be criminalised,” Euronews stated.
  • Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Euronews that she’s confident tensions between Sweden and Turkey will subside in time for the next NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.

Worth noting: The U.S. is currently in the process of selling F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, CNN reports. However, a group of senators urged President Joe Biden in a letter to hold off on the sale until Turkey approves Sweden’s NATO bid.

  • “Failure to ratify the protocols or present a timeline for ratification threatens the Alliance’s unity at a key moment in history, as Russia continues its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” the letter reads, per CNN. “A productive and mutually beneficial bilateral security relationship with (Turkey) is in the interest of the United States, and we are awaiting the government’s ratification of the NATO accession protocols for Sweden and Finland.”

Why is Turkey holding out? After Turkey dropped its initial veto over Sweden’s NATO membership, in October Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again withdrew his support, stating that he wanted Sweden to keep its promises against anti-terrorism, according to RadioFreeEurope.

  • Euronews states that Turkey wants “more action” from Sweden in its anti-terrorism movements, specifically against the Kurdish groups that Turkey marks as terrorist organizations. Sweden has regularly hosted pro-Kurdish rallies and has refused to extradite people that Turkey links to outlawed Kurdish fighters and an attempted coup in 2016.
  • Even though Kurds make up one-fifth of Turkey’s population, according to the Global Conflict Tracker, tensions between Kurdish groups and Turkey are high.
  • Kurdish groups, including the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, have conducted several insurgencies against Turkish authorities in an attempt to establish an independent Kurdish state since 1984. The Global Conflict Tracker says that these attempts have resulted in almost 40,000 deaths.