ANKARA (Reuters) - A NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June is not a deadline for a decision on Sweden and Finland’s membership bids, which are opposed by Turkey, the Turkish president’s spokesman said on Saturday.
Sweden and Finland applied to join the Western defence alliance last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but their bids have faced resistance from Turkey, which has accused them of supporting Kurdish militants.
While the two Nordic countries have said talks would continue to resolve the dispute, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Ankara had not received any responses to its demands, including stopping support for groups Turkey considers terrorists, lifting arms embargoes on Ankara and extraditing suspects it seeks.
Speaking to the state-run Anadolu news agency during a visit to Madrid, Erdogan’s spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser Ibrahim Kalin repeated that progress on the membership bids hinged on how Sweden and Finland respond to Turkish demands.
“We don’t see ourselves in a time constraint like the NATO summit,” Kalin was cited as saying, adding that while the summit was important in addressing common issues like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and cooperation within the alliance, potential allies have to take steps to alleviate concerns of current members.
“We don’t feel like we are under any time pressure like ‘let us get this done by the NATO summit’. What is important here is that Sweden and Finland openly, clearly and concretely put forth what kind of steps they will take regarding counter-terrorism,” he added.
Any bid to join NATO requires backing from each of its 30 members. Turkey, which has been a NATO ally for over 70 years, has said it will not change its view unless the Nordic countries take “concrete steps” about its concerns.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Washington this week that he would convene senior officials from Finland, Sweden and Turkey in Brussels in coming days to discuss the issue. NATO leaders will convene on June 29-30 in Madrid.
Earlier, Erdogan said NATO was not an organisation that could provide protection from terror, citing demonstrations and events organised by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group in allied countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Greece, whose envoy to Ankara was summoned over the issue on Friday.
He said Ankara would not “fall for the same mistake” while PKK members “roam free” in Finland and Sweden.
The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ros Russell
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