By Ali Kucukgocmen
ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Swedish and Finnish delegations should not bother coming to Ankara to convince it to approve their NATO bid.
Sweden’s government has formally decided to apply for NATO membership, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday, a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto confirmed that Helsinki will also apply for membership.
Turkey surprised its NATO allies last week by saying it would not view their applications positively, mainly citing their history of hosting members of groups Ankara deems terrorists.
In a news conference on Monday, Erdogan repeated that Turkey would not approve their bids to join NATO, calling Sweden a “hatchery” for terrorist organisations, and adding it had terrorists in its parliament.
“Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude towards terrorist organisation,” Erdogan said. “How can we trust them?”
The Swedish foreign office said earlier on Monday that senior representatives of Sweden and Finland plan to travel to Turkey for talks to address Ankara’s objections.
“They are coming to Turkey on Monday. Are they coming to convince us? Excuse me but they should not tire themselves,” Erdogan said about the planned visit.
Erdogan said NATO would become “a place where representatives of terrorist organisations are concentrated” if the two countries join.
Ankara says Sweden and Finland harbor people it says are linked to groups it deems terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.
Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said on Monday that Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested.
Erdogan also said Turkey would oppose the NATO bids from those who imposed sanctions on it. Sweden and Finland had slapped arms export embargoes on Turkey after its Syria incursion in 2019.
NATO and the United States said they were confident Turkey would not hold up membership of Finland and Sweden.
Diplomats said Erdogan would be under pressure to yield as Finland and Sweden would greatly strengthen NATO in the Baltic Sea.
Erdogan’s spokesman said on Saturday that Turkey has not shut the door to Sweden and Finland joining NATO but wants negotiations and a clampdown on what it sees as terrorist activities.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)