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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Erdoğan reiterates Turkey’s concerns to Finnish, Swedish leaders

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed Turkey’s security concerns with the leaders of Sweden and Finland in phone calls on Saturday. According to a statement released by the Presidency’s Directorate of Communications, Erdoğan informed Magdalena Andersson about Turkish concerns regarding the activities of the PKK, its Syrian offshoot YPG and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in Sweden, and said that the NATO-candidate country should put an end to its financial, political and weapon support to such groups. The Turkish president said Ankara has always supported NATO’s open-door policy, and that solidarity was essential for the security of member countries, as well as collective security. Ankara expects Stockholm to take serious steps to address its concerns with regards to the terrorist groups, he said, adding that the claim that PKK/YPG terrorists were fighting the Daesh terrorist group, did not reflect reality. Sweden’s arms restrictions on Turkey was another subject brought up during the conversation. Erdoğan said Turkey’s cross-border military campaigns in northern Syria were a result of a necessity caused by a terrorist threat in the region, and Ankara expects Stockholm to lift the restrictions. Andersson in a tweet appreciated the call, and said that Sweden looked forward “to strengthening our bilateral relations, including on peace, security and the fight against terrorism.” Meanwhile, the president also spoke with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö in a phone call. He noted that a stance that ignores factors posing security threats to an ally does not fall in line with the spirit of the alliance. The president also spoke with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who acknowledged Turkey’s security concerns as an important ally. Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO on Wednesday – a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began in February. But Turkey, a longstanding member of the alliance, has voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups. Erdoğan has placed an obstacle to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. He accuses Stockholm, and to a lesser extent Helsinki, of supporting the PKK terrorist group and other groups that Ankara views as terrorists and a threat to national security. Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, also accuses the two Nordic countries of imposing restrictions on exports of defense industry equipment to Turkey and of failing to extradite suspects wanted by Turkish authorities. In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union, has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people. FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, in which 251 people were killed and 2,734 injured. Ankara accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

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