ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden and Finland must deport or extradite up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before the Turkish parliament approves their bid to join NATO.
The two Scandinavian countries last year applied to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but their offers must be approved by all 30 NATO member states. Turkey and Hungary have not yet ratified the applications.
Turkey said Sweden in particular should first take a clearer stance against what it views as terrorists, mostly Kurdish militants and the group it blames for the 2016 coup attempt.
“We said look, so if you don’t hand over your terrorists to us, we can’t pass it (approving NATO’s request) through parliament anyway,” Erdogan said in remarks late Sunday, referring to joint media. The conference he had with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Christson last November.
“For this to pass to parliament, you first have to hand over 100, about 130 of these terrorists to us,” Erdogan said.
Finnish politicians interpreted Erdogan’s request as an angry response to an incident in Stockholm last week, in which an effigy of the Turkish leader was hung up during what appeared to be a small protest.
“This must have been a reaction, I think, to the events of the past days,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told YLE public channel.
Haavisto said he was not aware of any new official demands from Turkey.
In response to the incident in Stockholm, Turkey canceled a scheduled visit to Ankara by the speaker of the Swedish parliament, Andreas Norlin, who instead came to Helsinki on Monday.
“We stress that in Finland and Sweden we have freedom of expression. We cannot control it,” Finnish Parliament Speaker Matti Vanhanen told reporters at a joint news conference with Norlin.
On the other hand, Swedish Prime Minister Christerson said on Monday that his country is in a “good position” to secure Turkey’s ratification of its NATO file.
Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman, said on Saturday that time was running out for the Turkish parliament to ratify the bids before presidential and parliamentary elections expected in May.
Reporting by ACE Toxabay. Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones
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