ANKARA, Jan. 16 (Reuters) – Sweden and Finland must deport or extradite up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before the Turkish parliament approves their entry into NATO, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
The two Nordic states applied to join NATO last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but their bids must be approved by all 30 NATO member states. Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve 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 blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
“We said look, so if you don’t hand over your terrorists to us, we can’t pass it (NATO application approval) anyway,” Erdogan said in comments late Sunday, referring to a joint press. conference he held last November with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
“To get this through parliament, you first have to hand over 100, about 130 of these terrorists to us,” Erdogan said.
Finnish politicians interpreted Erdogan’s demand as an angry response to an incident last week in Stockholm in which an effigy of the Turkish leader was hung during what appeared to be a small protest.
“This must have been a reaction, I think, to the events of the past few days,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told public broadcaster YLE.
Haavisto said he was not aware of new official demands from Turkey.
In response to the Stockholm incident, Turkey canceled a planned visit to Ankara by Sweden’s Speaker of the Parliament, Andreas Norlen, who came to Helsinki instead on Monday.
“We emphasize that in Finland and Sweden we have freedom of expression. We cannot control it,” Speaker of the Finnish Parliament 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 spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Saturday that time is running out for Turkey’s parliament to ratify the bids ahead of expected presidential and parliamentary elections in May.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Edited by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones
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