Sweden should return PKK members before talks NATO with Turkey: Erdogan

In the wake of Finland and Sweden’s submission of formal applications to join NATO, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Sweden should not expect Ankara to approve its NATO bid without returning "terrorists".

Finland, Sweden formally apply to join NATO

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President Erdogan said Swedish and Finnish delegations should not descend on Turkey to convince it to back their NATO bids. To recall, the two Nordic countries’ decision was spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The accession process is expected to take only a few weeks despite Turkey's objections.

On Wednesday, President Erdogan told MPs from his AK Party in parliament that "we have such a sensitivity as protecting our borders from attacks by terrorist organisations."

The president went on to say 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,” the Turkish head of state said.

Ankara claims Sweden and Finland harbour people it says are linked to groups it deems terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016.

As the Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said on Monday, Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested.

The Turkish president went on to say on Wednesday: “So you won't give us back terrorists but you ask us for NATO membership? NATO is an entity for security, an organisation for security. Therefore, we cannot say ‘yes’ to this security organisation being deprived of security.”

The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, the EU and some other countries. Still, labelling the PKK as a terrorist organisation has been controversial. The organisation also contributed, arms in hand, to the relegation of ISIS from a quasi-state based on religious discrimination and terror to a standard type of terrorist organisation.

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