President Erdogan wants Sweden and Finland to crack down on the Kurds before he'll support their NATO bid
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Sweden of arming Kurdish militias, which Turkey considers terrorists. Reports in Turkish media suggest that Swedish weapons have been used against Turkish troops and that Ankara is seeking a major crackdown on the Kurds by Stockholm before it can join the NATO alliance.
Speaking at a youth event on Thursday, Erdogan stated that Turkey had "told our relevant friends we would say 'no' to Finland and Sweden's entry into NATO." According to remarks translated by the Associated Press, Erdogan singled Sweden out as "a focus of terror, home to terror," and accused it of giving weapons and money to the Kurds, against whom Turkey has fought a low-intensity armed conflict since the 1980s.
Omer Celik, a spokesman for Erdogan's ruling party, claimed on Thursday that Ankara has proof that Swedish weapons have turned up in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
According to a report published earlier on Thursday by Turkey's Anadolu news agency, Turkish forces seized Swedish-made AT4 anti-tank rockets during at least 11 raids in southern Turkey and four in northern Iraq between 2018 and 2021. Used by more than 30 militaries worldwide, the AT4 is one of the world's most common shoulder-fired anti-armor weapons.
Turkish troops often conduct cross-border operations against the PKK in Iraq and its Syrian offshoot, the YPG, in Syria.
Celik also warned the US and France against "giving to the group that kills my country's citizens," and called on NATO members to "cut off their support to terror groups." The US military fought alongside the Kurds during the campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
Sweden denies arming the PKK, and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Friday said that allegations of Swedish support for the group amount to "disinformation." Linde stated that Sweden, along with the EU, considers the PKK "a terrorist organization."
Turkey blames Sweden and Finland for having refused to extradite a number of PKK-linked people considered terrorists by Ankara, as well as a number of people from FETO, a group supporting opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Ankara has called for these suspects' extradition before it will back the Nordic nations' bid for NATO membership, and has reportedly demanded that both countries lift arms export restrictions to Turkey.
READ MORE: Turkey names conditions for U-turn on Finland and Sweden's NATO bid - media
Also, Ankara reportedly wants to be readmitted to the F-35 jet fighter program, from which it was expelled in 2019 over its purchase of the S-400 air defense system from Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Thursday that he expects the alliance's 30 members to "come to a quick decision" on admitting Sweden and Finland.
"We are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed, because when an important ally (like) Turkey raises security concerns, raises issues, then of course the only way to deal with that is to sit down and find common ground," Stoltenberg told reporters in Copenhagen, Denmark.