Delegations from Sweden and Finland are expected to meet with senior Turkish officials in Ankara on Wednesday in an attempt to overcome Turkey’s objections to their historic NATO membership ambitions.

Last week, Sweden and Finland submitted written bids to join NATO, marking one of the most significant geopolitical consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine — and potentially rewriting Europe’s security landscape.

Turkey has stated that it opposes the two Nordic nations joining the military alliance, citing concerns about Sweden’s — and to a lesser extent Finland’s — alleged support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other groups that Turkey considers a security danger. It also accuses the two of restricting Turkish arms shipments and refusing to extradite suspected “terrorists.”
Turkey’s concerns have dashed Stockholm and Helsinki’s ambitions for speedy NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, jeopardizing the transatlantic alliance’s reputation. To admit new members, all 30 NATO countries must agree.

The Swedish and Finnish delegations are set to discuss Turkey’s issues with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal. According to Turkish officials, the Swedish team will be led by state secretary Oscar Stenström, while the Finnish delegation will be led by Jukka Salovaara, the foreign ministry’s undersecretary.
Several of Turkey’s partners have designated the PKK as a terrorist group, and it has waged a decades-long insurgency against the country, killing tens of thousands of people.

Turkey demanded five “concrete assurances” from Sweden this week, including the “end of political support for terrorism,” “removal of the source of terrorism financing,” and “cessation of arms support” to the banned PKK and a Syrian Kurdish militia organization associated with it. The demands also included the easing of arms sanctions against Turkey as well as global terrorism cooperation.

Turkey has been pursuing the extradition of Kurdish militants and other suspects from Stockholm since 2017, but has yet to receive a favourable response. Ankara stated, among other things, that Sweden had decided to contribute $376 million in 2023 to help Kurdish rebels, as well as military equipment such as anti-tank guns and drones.

Sweden has denied giving “financial help or military support” to Syrian Kurdish organisations or entities.
“Through global allocations to humanitarian actors, Sweden is a major humanitarian donor to the Syria crisis,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the Aftonbladet daily.

“In northeastern Syria, cooperation is mostly carried out through the United Nations and international organizations,” she explained. “While Sweden does not provide specific assistance to Syrian Kurds or political or military formations in northeastern Syria, the people in these areas does participate in these humanitarian initiatives.”

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