Turkey’s Erdogan insists on refusal to back Sweden’s NATO membership at Vilnius summit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reiterated his opposition to Sweden’s bid to join the US-led NATO military alliance, vowing to block the move at the organization’s upcoming summit in July since Stockholm continues to harbor anti-Ankara terrorists.

Erdogan made the remarks on Wednesday prior to a meeting in Ankara between officials from Turkey, Sweden, Finland and NATO for talks on efforts to overcome Turkish objections to Stockholm’s bid to join the military alliance.

Erdogan further told journalists on Tuesday that “terrorists” were demonstrating in the streets of Stockholm while NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was seeking to convince him to accept Sweden’s bid for membership in the organization.

“While Stoltenberg was expressing these views to us, unfortunately, at that time, terrorists were demonstrating in the streets again in Sweden,” he emphasized. “Now, we cannot approach this work positively within this table.”

The remarks came after supporters of the so-called Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) armed group waved flags and held rallies against Turkey in the Swedish capital earlier this month, enraging Ankara.

Turkey has persistently criticized Stockholm for harboring members of Kurdish militant groups that have long waged terrorist acts in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria in purported efforts to establish a separate Kurdish entity.

Erdogan says he cannot endorse the bid of Sweden to join the NATO military alliance as long as the Nordic country continues to lend support to terrorist groups acting against his country.

Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, has blamed Sweden, and to some extent Finland, for providing sanctuary to elements linked to the PKK as well as the Gulen movement, which Ankara accuses of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt.

Both groups are considered “terrorist” groups by Turkey. The PKK is also on the “terrorist” lists of the US, the EU as well as other countries in the region.

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