Turkey has said that it may block Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO for at least a year in response to allegations by Turkey that these countries support and harbour the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, the PKK, an outlawed militant organisation.

Turkey has said it would be willing to allow Finland and Sweden NATO membership if they renounce and crack down on the PKK, which has fought a long war against Turkey in order to establish a Kurdish-independent state. Sweden is currently home to around 100,000 Kurdish refugees and imposed a weapons sale ban on Turkey following Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish controlled northern Syria in 2019.

Sweden and Finland, long opposed to NATO membership, have expressed a desire to join the defence pact in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Akif Çağatay Kılıç, an MP for the ruling Turkish Justice and Development party (AKP) said:

“This is a matter of vital national interest, and we are prepared to prevent their membership for as long as a year if necessary. Turkey is the second largest army in NATO and has been providing the drones that help Ukraine defend itself. We deserve greater respect.”

Adding:

“What are [Sweden and Finland] going to do? They have been harbouring terrorist organisations that kill my people, disrespect my borders, pose an existential threat to my country. The only thing we demand is that there are no distinctions. A terrorist organisation is a terrorist organisation.”

Finland’s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, said of the situation:

“If we don’t solve these issues before [the] Madrid [summit], there is a risk that the situation will freeze. We don’t know for how long, but it might freeze for a while.”

Senior NATO figures have been scrambling behind the scenes to try and resolve the impasse, including NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has warned of grave consequences should either Finland or Sweden join the defence alliance, which would dramatically increase the border between Russia and the NATO nations.

[Based on reporting by: The Guardian]

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