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NATO expansion amid the biggest threat to Europe since World War II looks unlikely as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday reiterated his opposition to Sweden joining NATO and Finland.
Erdogan had hinted in recent days that he could cause problems for Stockholm and Helsinki as they try to join the 30-member alliance.
But the Turkish president’s comments on Thursday spelled out a more definitive conclusion for European nations bolstering their security defenses through NATO.
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Addressing a group of young Turks in a video posted to his Twitter, Erdogan accused Sweden and Finland of being a “hotbed of terror[ists]— a comment that refers to his dissatisfaction with their refusal to extradite individuals whom Turkey has deemed to be “terrorists.”
“NATO is a security organization, we cannot accept the presence of terrorist organizations within it,” Erdogan said according to a Turkish media translation.
The Turkish president has accused not only the two European countries, but also major NATO countries such as the United States, of turning a blind eye to the “harassment” he claims to have suffered from members of the People’s Party. Kurdistan Workers (PKK).
The PKK has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.
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But the group’s relationship with affiliates fighting ISIS in Syria under the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) – which is backed by some Western countries – has strained geopolitical ties.
“As far as NATO is concerned, Sweden and Finland are all the ones that host our terrorist centers in their own country. And they will host the PKK, the YPG,” he added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg championed the candidacies of Sweden and Finland to join the alliance on Wednesday and said: “All allies agree on the importance of the ‘NATO enlargement’.
“We all agree that we have to stand together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment that we must seize,” he added.
But Stockholm and Helsinki will need the green light from all 30 member countries, including Turkey, to join the security alliance.
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Diplomats from both countries are expected to visit Turkey to start negotiations.
Although Erdogan told them on Tuesday that they “shouldn’t bother” to come.