ANKARA, Jan 16 (Reuters) – Sweden and Finland must deport up to 130 “terrorists” before Turkey’s parliament approves their bid to join NATO, President Tayyip Erdogan said. Or extradition to Turkey.
The two Nordic countries applied to join NATO last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but their application must be approved by all 30 NATO members. Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve the applications.
Turkey says Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and groups it blames for the failed 2016 coup.
“We said look, so if you don’t hand over your terrorists to us, we can’t pass it (approval of the NATO application) through parliament anyway,” Erdogan said in comments late on Sunday, saying he Referring to United Media, he held a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson last November.
“For this bill to pass in parliament, first you have to give us more than 100 of these terrorists, about 130,” Erdogan said.
Finnish politicians interpreted Erdogan’s demands as an angry response to an incident in Stockholm last week in which a portrait of the Turkish leader was hoisted in what appeared to be a small protest.
“I believe this must have been a reaction to the events of the past few days,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Havisto told public broadcaster YLE.
Haavisto said he was not aware of any new official demands from Turkey.
In response to the events in Stockholm, Turkey canceled a planned visit to Ankara by Swedish parliament speaker Andreas Noren, who was scheduled to travel to Helsinki on Monday.
“We stress that in Finland and Sweden we have freedom of speech. We cannot control it,” Matti Vanhanen, speaker of the Finnish parliament, told reporters at a joint news conference with Noren.
Separately, Swedish Prime Minister Kristensen said on Monday his country was in a “good position” to secure Turkey’s approval to join NATO.
Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Saturday that time was running out for Turkey’s parliament to approve the bids ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections expected in May.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones
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