ANKARA Reuters President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Sweden should not expect Turkey to approve its NATO bid without returning terrorists, and Swedish and Finnish delegations should not come to Turkey to convince it to back their membership in the alliance.
Finland and Sweden applied to join the NATO alliance earlier in the day, which was spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the accession process expected to take only a few weeks despite Turkey's objections.
Ankara accuses Sweden and Finland of having people it says are linked to groups it deems terrorists, including the Kurdistan Workers Party PKK militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling AK Party in parliament that we have such a sensitivity as it protects our borders from attacks by terrorists.
Erdogan said NATO allies had never supported Turkey in its fight against Kurdish militant groups, including the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which Ankara believes is a terrorist group linked to the PKK.
He said that the expansion of NATO is only meaningful for us in proportion to the respect shown to our sensitivities.
Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said on Monday Sweden and Finland had not approved for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested.
NATO is an organization for security, an organization for security. Erdogan said that we can't say 'yes' to this security organization being deprived of security.
Erdogan accused NATO allies of supporting terrorists, citing their arms deliveries for the YPG, a main source of disagreement between Ankara and Washington, as well as other Western countries.
In January of this year, Ankara received little international backing for its plans to build a safe zone in northern Syria, including 1 million Syrians in part of northeast Syria that Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies seized from the YPG.
Erdogan called on NATO members to support Turkey's legitimate and moral operations in Syria, including the safe zone, or at least not try to trip us up. Erdogan said Turkey would oppose the NATO bids from those who have imposed sanctions on Ankara. Sweden and Finland had banned arms exports to Turkey after its incursion against the YPG in Syria in 2019.
NATO and the United States said they were confident that Turkey would not hold up the two Nordic countries' membership.
Turkey has not closed the door to Sweden and Finland joining NATO but wants a clampdown on what it sees as terrorist activities, according to Erdogan's spokesman on Saturday.