Mevlut Cavusoglu during a NATO meeting in Berlin, on May 1
© Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images
Mevlut Cavusoglu during a NATO meeting in Berlin, on May 15.
  • Erdogan voices firm opposition before talks on Sweden,
  • Finland Turkish president calls Sweden 'nesting ground' for terrorists
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he won't allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO because of their stances on Kurdish militants, throwing a wrench into plans to strengthen the western military alliance after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

At a press conference in Ankara late Monday, Erdogan poured cold water on expectations that Turkish opposition to the enlargement plan could be easily resolved. The remarks were his clearest indication that he intends to block membership for the two countries, or at least extract concessions for it, since they announced their intentions to join over the weekend.
"These two countries lack a clear stance against terrorism" and "Sweden is a nesting ground for terrorist organizations,"
Erdogan said. He also said that Turkey wouldn't allow countries that impose "sanctions" on Turkey to join NATO, an apparent reference to restrictions on weapons sales imposed by several European nations.

At the heart of the matter is Erdogan's deep resentment against NATO allies for what he sees as their refusal to take seriously Ankara's concerns about Kurdish militants operating inside Turkey and across its borders in Syria and Iraq. Turkey wants its perception of the threat to be acknowledged by all NATO members, and says risk priorities should be harmonized across the alliance.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Tuesday that Erdogan is using the situation as a negotiating ploy to try to extract concessions, including in the country's efforts to buy F-35 fighter jets from the US.
"This bazaar mentality is present in Turkey and also in its chief, in Erdogan, we know that," Asselborn said on Germany's Deutschlandfunk radio. "I think he's just pushing up the price, but at the end of the day I'm convinced that Turkey can't put the brakes on this."
The Pentagon ousted Turkey from the program to buy -- and help build -- Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 in July 2019, after Erdogan's government purchased the Russian-made S-400 missile system.

In September, Turkey sent a formal request to the US to buy 40 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft and nearly 80 kits from Lockheed Martin to modernize its existing fighters. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu plans to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday and discuss the issue, with any deal potentially worth as much as $6 billion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had said he expected to work through the last-minute wrinkle to the enlargement plan. But that looks unlikely to happen immediately, with Erdogan saying Monday that officials from Sweden and Finland planning to visit Ankara for talks shouldn't even bother coming.