Erdogan-Allied Turkish Nationalist Party Proposes Keeping Sweden, Finland in NATO 'Waiting Room'
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he couldn't approve Sweden and Finland's bids for membership in NATO, since it would turn the alliance into a "place where there will be many representatives of terrorists". Ankara has long accused the Nordic countries of "harbouring" members of the Kurdish Workers Party.
Sweden and Finland should be kept in NATO's "waiting room" and not be permitted to join the Western alliance, Devlet Bahceli, chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a major pro-Erdogan political party, has said.
"Everyone knows that Finland and especially Sweden have embraced the enemies of Turkey. Will we watch how they shake hands with us while letting them stab us with a dagger to the back? How can we trust the word of those who assist and incite the killers? Putting Finland and Sweden into the waiting room is the most plausible option at this stage", Bahceli told TRT Haber on Tuesday.
The MHP is Turkey's fourth largest party and has been allied with Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 2015. Bahceli's support and his party's 47 seats in the current parliament are critical to Erdogan, allowing the AKP with its 286 seats to retain confidence in the 600-seat body.
The MHP has been opposed to negotiations with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) leaders for decades, and the Grey Wolves, the unofficial youth wing of the party, has been accused of a campaign of violence against PKK members, activists, and militia commanders.
Sweden and Finland confirmed their intention to join NATO over the weekend. The membership bids would formally require the approval of all 30 member states of NATO. Last week, Erdogan said he was "not of a favourable opinion" on Stockholm and Helsinki's bids, and that he did not want to repeat Turkey's "mistake" of agreeing to readmit regional rival Greece in 1980.
"Scandinavian countries have become a safe haven, a so-called guest house for PKK and other terror groups", Erdogan said late last week. The Turkish president also alleged that "some terrorists" were even members of Sweden's parliament.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin expressed bewilderment over Ankara's shift of position, telling YLE on Monday that "previously, Finland has been assured that Turkey wants to neither place any obstacles to Finland and Sweden's possible NATO memberships nor complicate the process".
Marin expressed hopes that "things can be resolved through dialogue".
Authorities in Sweden and Finland broke with neutrality pursued for many decades in the wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine and announced plans to join NATO. Russian officials have characterised these plans as a "mistake", and warned that they would not serve to improve either country's security, and on the contrary, potentially destabilise Northern Europe.
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