Turkey blocks Sweden and Finland’s bids to join Nato

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Adem Altan/AFP
Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Adem Altan/AFP

Turkey on Wednesday vetoed a Nato decision on whether to accept Finland and Sweden into the military alliance in the first official vote on membership.

At a “classified” meeting of Nato ambassadors in Brussels, the Turkish representative stopped a vote on their applications, which had been officially submitted earlier in the day, according to sources with knowledge of the discussion.

The meeting was called in the hope of agreeing an accelerated accession process in order to head off Russian threats of aggression aimed at the Nordic nations.

But the delay has thrown into doubt whether Nato will be able to approve the first stage of Finland and Sweden’s applications before a meeting of its leaders in Madrid on June 28.

A source told The Telegraph that Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, has taken wider talks “offline” and will instead focus on smaller meetings in order to overcome Ankara’s opposition.

Jens Stoltenberg - Johanna Geron/Pool/AFP
Jens Stoltenberg - Johanna Geron/Pool/AFP

The Turkish veto came hours after Mr Stoltenberg hailed the official applications as a historic moment for Western security.

“This is a good day at a critical moment for our security,” he said, after meeting Finland and Sweden’s ambassadors at Nato’s headquarters in Brussels.

“We all agree that we must stand together and we all agree that this is a historic moment which we must seize. Every nation has the right to choose its own path.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, demanded that both nations hand over dozens of Turkish exiles to answer charges of “terrorism”.

Speaking in parliament, he attacked Western allies for failing to respect Ankara’s “sensitivity” on the issue and accused Finland and Sweden of refusing to extradite 30 people accused of terrorism by his nationalist regime.

Nato’s expansion since 1997

“We asked for 30 terrorists. They said: ‘We are not giving them,’” said Mr Erdogan. “You won’t hand over terrorists, but you want to join Nato. We cannot say yes to a security organisation that is devoid of security.”

A Turkish official told the Financial Times that while Ankara had rejected the initial applications it was not completely ruling out Nato membership.

The official said: “We’re not saying they can’t be Nato members, just that we need to be on the same wavelength, the same page, about the threat that we’re facing.”

Turkey, a Nato member since 1952, has raised concerns over what it sees as Sweden’s soft stance on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, classified as a terrorist organisation by the EU, US and Ankara.

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