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Why is Turkey standing in the way of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership?

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Why is Turkey standing in the way of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership?

Context- On Thursday, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “time is now” for earthquake-hit Turkey to ratify applications by Finland and Sweden to join the defense alliance.

Speaking at a news conference in Turkey’s capital Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Stoltenberg repeated his claim that the two countries had done enough to satisfy Turkey’s demands to crack down on extremism.

(Credits- Economist Intelligence Unit)

A quick brief on NATO

  • NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, was set up in 1949 by the US, Canada, and several western European nations to ensure their collective security against the Soviet Union.
  • It was the US’s first peacetime military alliance outside the western hemisphere. There are 30 members of NATO, who are committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. Collective defence lies at the very heart of NATO

Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO

  • Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Finland, on May 12, 2022, and Sweden, on May 16, 2022, applied to join NATO. According to a report by Reuters, Sweden and Finland have long pursued policies of formal military non-alignment but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a rethink
  • All 30 NATO members approved their applications, and 28 have ratified their accession. Only Turkey and Hungary have failed to do so.

What are Turkey’s issues against Sweden and Finland?

  • In May 2022, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked an early attempt by NATO to fast-track the applications, saying their membership would make the alliance “a place where representatives of terrorist organizations are concentrated.”
  • Turkey accused Sweden of being home to what it categorises as terror organisations or existential threats from the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey wanted Stockholm and Helsinki to take a tougher line against the PKK and another group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
  • Sweden denies Turkey’s accusations of harboring Kurdish terrorists and actively supporting the PKK. Also, Turkey wants Sweden and Finland to lift their restrictions on the sale of arms to the country, which was imposed after Ankara’s military campaign in Syria in 2019.
  • During a NATO summit in June 2022, the countries reached a tri-lateral agreement on how to proceed. Finland and Sweden agreed to work harder to fight terrorism by intensifying work on the extradition and deportation of suspected militants, and Turkey lifted its veto and said the country would seek the extradition of 33 alleged Kurdish fighters and coup plot suspects from both the Nordic countries.
  • Turkey said that it looked positive on Finland’s application for NATO membership and not Sweden’s. Erdogan said, “Our position on Finland is positive, but it is not positive on Sweden”. Erdogan repeated his demand for Sweden to hand over some 120 alleged suspects.

What’s the history between Turkey and PKK?

  • The Kurds are a major ethnic group who live in the mountainous geo-cultural region known as Kurdistan, which extends from southeastern Turkey in the west to northwestern Iran in the east, and from northern Iraq and northern Syria in the south to Armenia in the north.
  • PKK has engaged in armed struggle with Turkey for decades, first seeking an independent Kurdish state, but has since evolved to seek greater Kurdish autonomy and increased rights of Kurds within Turkey. Terrorist attacks continued until 2013 when the PKK declared a ceasefire.

Source- Indian Express

Syllabus- Prelims; Current Affairs

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