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Turkish president seeks more than 'empty words' from Sweden, Finland on NATO

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he wants to see action from Finland and Sweden instead of "empty words" in order to agree to their accession to NATO.

Speaking before departing for a NATO summit in Madrid on Tuesday, Erdogan said the two candidates must consider Ankara's concerns if they want to be NATO members.

"We do not want dry words, we want results. We are sick of passing the ball around in the mid-field. As of now, they are producing words," he said.

Erdogan's spokesman and deputy foreign minister met Swedish and Finnish officials in Brussels on Monday for consultations on the membership bids ahead of a four-way meeting involving Turkey, Finland, Sweden, and the US at the summit.

"We will hold these four-way talks together and see what point they have reached," Erdogan said.

Ending decades of military neutrality, Sweden and Finland applied to join the US-led military alliance in the wake of tensions with Moscow over the Russian military campaign in Ukraine. All 30 NATO members must agree on admitting new members.

Erdogan says he cannot endorse the bid of Sweden to join the NATO military alliance as long as the two Nordic countries continue to lend support to terrorist groups against his country.

Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, has accused Sweden, and to some extent Finland, of providing sanctuary to elements linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as well as the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.

Both groups are considered terrorist groups by Turkey. The PKK is also on the terrorist lists of the US and the EU.

The Turkish government has accused the two Nordic countries of giving a safe haven to the PKK and refusing to extradite its members.

Additionally, Sweden and Finland, among others, also placed restrictions on arms exports to Turkey after its military offensive against the YPG in 2019.

Elsewhere in his remarks on Tuesday, the Turkish president said he would also push US President Joe Biden at the meeting on a "stalled" F-16 fighter jet purchase. He said he would discuss the issue of Ankara's procurement of S-400 from Russia, which the US is opposed to.

"Our most important discussion with the United States is the F-16 issue. That is still on the table, but there is a stalling tactic here," he said.

Turkey made a request in October last year to the United States to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes. Washington has so far refrained from expressing any opinion on the sale, saying it needs to go through the standard arms sales process.

The sale of US weapons to NATO ally Turkey became contentious after Ankara acquired the Russian-made S-400, triggering US sanctions as well as Turkey's removal from the F-35 fighter jet program.


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