Turkey tells U.S. it wants 'concrete steps' from Finland, Sweden for NATO bids

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FILE PHOTO: Interview with Turkish President Erdogan's spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser Kalin in Istanbul
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ANKARA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A chief adviser to Turkey's president told his U.S. counterpart that Turkey wanted "concrete steps" on the existence of what it calls "terrorist organisations" in Finland and Sweden before it would consider their NATO bids, the Turkish presidency said.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Ibrahim Kalin, chief foreign policy adviser to President Tayyip Erdogan, spoke on Monday to discuss the NATO bids and the war in Ukraine, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Turkey has objected to the two countries' joining the Western defence alliance on the grounds that they harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and others it deems terrorists, and because Finland and Sweden halted arms exports to Turkey in 2019.

In a statement, the Turkish presidency said Kalin had told Sullivan in a phone call that nations wanting to join NATO must "internalise the alliance's values and principles on security and counter-terrorism."

"It was emphasised that it is imperative for Sweden and Finland to take concrete steps regarding the terrorist organisations that threaten Turkey's national security," it added.

The White House said Sullivan in the call "expressed support for Turkey’s continued direct talks with Sweden and Finland to resolve concerns over their applications for NATO membership, which the U.S. strongly supports."

Sweden and Finland have said they condemn terrorism and are open to dialogue. All 30 NATO members must approve plans to enlarge the alliance.

Erdogan said in comments published in The Economist on Monday that Turkey's commitment to NATO was unchanged, and he called on allies to focus their efforts on "persuading" the candidate countries.

"Sweden's and Finland's uncompromising insistence on joining the alliance has added an unnecessary item to NATO's agenda," he said. "There is no authority in Ankara that can be told what to do by any country that is unwilling to fight terrorism."

Sullivan also "reiterated the importance of refraining from escalation in Syria to preserve existing ceasefire lines and avoid any further destabilization," the White House said.

(Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Tuvan Gumrukcu; additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Leslie Adler)

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