Erdoğan links Sweden NATO bid to return of 'terrorists'

Erdoğan has once again voiced opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, saying that they have been refusing to extradite “terrorists” to Turkey.


President Tayyip Erdoğan said on May 18 that 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 NATO bids.

Earlier, Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the accession process expected to take only a few weeks despite Turkey's objections. 

"We have such a sensitivity as protecting our borders from attacks by terrorist organizations," Erdoğan told MPs from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament.

Erdoğan said NATO allies had never supported Turkey in its fight against Kurdish militant groups, including the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

"NATO expansion is only meaningful for us in proportion to the respect that will be shown to our sensitivities," he said.

Ankara says Sweden and Finland harbor people it says are linked to groups it deems terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and followers of Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said earlier this week that Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested. 

"So you won't give us back terrorists but you ask us for NATO membership? NATO is an entity for security, an organization for security. Therefore, we cannot say 'yes' to this security organization being deprived of security," Erdoğan said.

NATO and the United States have said they were confident Turkey would not hold up membership of Finland and Sweden.