ANKARA, Jan 16 (Reuters) – Sweden and Finland must deport or extradite up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before Turkey’s parliament approves their NATO membership, President Tayyip Erdogan has said.
The two Nordic states applied last year to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine, but their applications must be approved by all 30 NATO member states. Turkey and Hungary have not yet approved the applications.
Turkey has said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it accuses of attempting a coup in 2016 .
“We said listen, so if you don’t hand over your terrorists to us, we can’t pass it (NATO bid approval) through parliament anyway,” Erdogan said in late comments. Sunday, referring to a joint press. conference he held with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson last November.
“For this to pass through parliament, you first need to hand over to us more than 100, about 130 of these terrorists,” Erdogan said.
Finnish politicians interpreted Erdogan’s request as an angry response to an incident in Stockholm last week in which an effigy of the Turkish leader was hung during what appeared to be a small protest.
“It must have been a reaction, I believe, to the events of the past few days,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told public broadcaster YLE.
Haavisto said he was not aware of any new official request from Turkey.
In response to the Stockholm incident, Turkey canceled a planned visit to Ankara by Swedish parliament speaker Andreas Norlen, who instead flew to Helsinki on Monday.
“We emphasize that in Finland and Sweden we have freedom of speech. We cannot control it,” Finnish parliament speaker Matti Vanhanen told reporters at a joint press conference with Norlen. .
Separately, on Monday, Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson said his country was in a “good position” to secure Turkey’s ratification of its NATO bid.
Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said on Saturday that time is running out for Turkey’s parliament to ratify the candidacies ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones
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