Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tells CNN he is still not prepared support Sweden's NATO membership, repeating his claim that Stockholm has allowed terrorist organizations to harbor in the country.
Erdogan can't look favorably on Sweden's membership bid, “as long as Sweden continues to allow the offshoots of terror groups in Turkey to roam free on the streets of Stockholm,” he said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson.
Key context: Erdogan has long accused Sweden of harboring militants from the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, a designated terror group in Turkey, Sweden, the United States and Europe.
Erdogan says he would like these individuals extradited, but Stockholm has made clear this won’t happen. The stalemate has blocked Sweden's accession to NATO even as fellow Nordic country Finland moved ahead in the process and officially joined the alliance last month.
Some Western officials and Middle East observers have suggested the terrorism claims provide cover for Erdogan not to engage with the NATO question and potentially anger Russian President Vladimir Putin at a politically inconvenient time.
Russia provided an economic lifeline to Turkey after other nations imposed sanctions on Ankara, and Putin remains an attractive partner in the country's post-earthquake rebuilding efforts, Gonul Tol, an academic with the Middle East Institute’s Turkey program, told CNN in March.
What it means for the war in Ukraine: Finland’s acceptance into the US-led security alliance dealt a blow to Putin, who has long sought to undermine NATO. Before invading Ukraine, he demanded the bloc refrain from further expansion.
The invasion instead drove non-aligned Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutrality and seek protection within NATO.
If Sweden eventually succeeds in joining the alliance, it will vastly change the security landscape in northeastern Europe, adding significantly to NATO's frontier with Russia.