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Defence Minister Kaikkonen in Ankara - Turkey demanding concrete concessions

One Turkish expert has told Yle that Turkey is unlikely to endorse Nato expansion before June elections.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the Nato summit in June 2022. Image: Dursun Aydemir / AOP
Yle News

Turkey's message to Finland and Sweden shows no signs of changing – the two Nato applicants must do more to allay Turkey's security concerns before it can accept them as members of the alliance.

This is probably also the message that Finland's Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) will hear when he meets his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar in Ankara on Thursday.

Although Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has assured alliance members that Finland and Sweden are already prepared for membership, Turkey clearly disagrees.

Former Turkish diplomat Murat Ersavci, who heads the Tepav think tank in Ankara, told Yle that Turkey's June elections are a key factor in the delay in approving Finnish and Swedish membership applications.

"Nato expansion is part of Turkey's internal politics. I think it seems that the issue will not be resolved before the elections," said Ersavci.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to present himself as a strong leader, and he has linked the expansion of Nato to, among other things, his fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK. Finland and Sweden are being required to take tougher measures against "terrorists".

Arms exports

Turkey is hoping for concrete concessions. On Tuesday Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Finland should lift a ban on arms exports to Turkey.

Finland has no formal ban on arms exports to Turkey, but in October 2019 it was announced that no new export permits would be issued. The move followed Turkey's launch of ground attacks against the Syrian Kurds.

Resuming arms sales is important for Turkey, even though this type of trade with Finland has been relatively small and Turkey is focusing on developing its own arms industry.

It was Defence Minister Kaikkonen who announced the suspension of arms exports in the autumn of 2019, so he will have the opportunity to clarify the situation when he meets his counterpart in Ankara.

Turkey has recently been talking about a new ground attack on northern Syria. According to President Erdoğan, Turkey still has plans to establish a security zone about 30 kilometers wide in northern Syria.

It is Turkey's position that the Syrian Kurdish YPG armed forces and the Democratic Union Party PYD are part of the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK, which the EU also classes as a terrorist organization.

In an agreement reached with Turkey in Madrid in June, Finland and Sweden gave a committment not to support Kurdish organizations in Syria. In future, it will be difficult for the two countries to criticize Turkey's attacks against the Kurds.

"Provocative actions and images"

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported earlier this week that Turkish Defence Minister Akar said that Turkey expects Sweden and Finland to take "concrete steps" against "terrorist propaganda".

"We are closely following the situation in Sweden and Finland. Unfortunately, we still see some provocative actions and images in these countries," Akar was quoted by the agency as saying.

Turkey has been particularly dissatisfied with demonstrations organized in Sweden, where PKK flags have been flown.

In Finland, the police prevented marchers from carrying the flags of the PKK and some other Kurdish organizations at the Helsinki without Nazis demonstration in the capital on Independence Day. The police justified the move by saying that that the flags could have created a provocation.

In addition to Turkey, Hungary has not yet ratified Finland's and Sweden's accession to Nato. However, Hungary has pledged to take care of the matter at the beginning of next year. As far as Turkey is concerned, the schedule is completely open.

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