Biden gives Finland and Sweden 'complete backing' to join NATO

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This month Finland and Sweden both announced their intention to join NATO in light of the Kremlin’s bloody invasion of Ukraine. The previously neutral countries were spurred into action and welcomed by most of the western security alliance – but Turkey has announced it is prepared to block the bid over longstanding diplomatic issues between the two countries.

Joining NATO requires consent from all other 30 members, and having been official partners of the alliance since the 1990s, the Nordic countries perhaps thought their ride into NATO would have been a little easier.

The clash has sent Western diplomats scrambling to bring Turkey on side, as Ankara presented a list of grievances to NATO ambassadors about its issues with the two Scandinavian countries.

On Wednesday, the Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan said: “We will continue our policy in a determined way.

“We have told allies that we will say no to Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership.”

Why doesn’t Turkey want Finland and Sweden to join NATO?

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would block the bid due to several longstanding issues involving Kurdish groups.

Sweden and Finland suspended arms sales to Turkey three years ago, following Ankara’s military intervention in Syria.

Turkey also takes issue with – what it says is – Sweden’s support of Kurdish groups, such as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria.

The PKK is a Kurdish Marxist separatist movement that has been fighting Turkish forces on-and-off since the 1980s, and operates mostly in southeastern Turkey and parts of northern Iraq.

The PKK, which seeks an independent state in Turkey, has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Since 1984, between 30,000 and 40,000 people were estimated to have died in fighting between the PKK and Turkish government, according to Crisis Group.

The PKK have carried out scores of attacks within Turkey.

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Sweden denied it supports the PKK, saying it supports other Kurds who are not in the PKK.

Turkey’s issues with Finland fall in the same line because of its association with Sweden.

According to Istanbul, Finland and Sweden have rejected dozens of requests to extradite Kurdish militants, which Turkey describes as terrorists.

President Erdogan is now demanding that Sweden extradite a list of people that Turkey has charged with terrorism.

He also wants Sweden and Finland to publicly disavow the PKK and its affiliates, and to lift the arms sales ban.

Last week, President Erdogan said: “You will not give us terrorists, but you will get up and ask us for NATO membership.

“NATO is a security formation, a security organisation, so we cannot say ‘yes’ to depriving this security organisation of security.”

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