erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following a NATO summit in Brussels on March 24.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has set out his conditions for Sweden and Finland to earn his backing for their NATO membership bids, saying they must abandon financial and political support for "terrorist" groups threatening Turkey's national security.

Erdogan spoke by phone separately on May 21 with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, telling Andersson that Stockholm must stop its "political, financial, and military support" for terrorist groups, according to Erdogan's office.

Longtime NATO member Turkey has been especially critical of Sweden for showing leniency toward the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey and its Western allies list as a terrorist group, and the followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara holds responsible for an attempted coup in 2016.

Erdogan has pressed for his concerns to be addressed as Sweden and Finland pursue membership in NATO, which requires the consent of all 30 current member states.

Turkey expects Sweden to "take concrete and serious steps" that show it shares Ankara's concerns over the PKK and its Iraqi and Syrian offshoots, Erdogan told Andersson, according to the presidency.

Erdogan also told Andersson to "lift restrictions imposed on Turkey in the defense industry," referring to an arms embargo in place since Sweden and Finland joined other countries in imposing restrictions after a Turkish military offensive in 2019 against the Kurdish militia People's Defense Units (YPG).

Addressing these areas would show that Stockholm shares Ankara's security concerns, Erdogan said, according to the statement.

Andersson said she appreciated the call and Sweden hoped to strengthen bilateral relations with Turkey.

"I emphasized that Sweden welcomes the possibility of cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and emphasized that Sweden clearly supports the fight against terrorism and the terrorist listing of the PKK," she said in a statement.

In his call with Niinisto, Erdogan said turning a blind eye to "terror" organizations posing a threat to a NATO ally was "incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance."

Erdogan also said it was Turkey's natural right to expect respect and support for its "legitimate and determined struggle against a clear threat to its national security and people," the presidency said.

Niinisto said he held "open and direct" talks with Erdogan and agreed to continue close dialogue.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February has shifted political opinion in both Nordic countries in favor of joining NATO.

The two countries shed their longtime neutrality this week by formally submitting applications to join the alliance, and Andersson and Niinisto were welcomed to the White House on May 19 by U.S. President Joe Biden, who strongly backed their bids.

Erdogan also spoke with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on May 21, telling him that Ankara will not look positively on Swedish and Finnish membership unless the two countries clearly show cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other issues.

Erdogan said in a statement after the call with Stoltenberg that he supported NATO's open-door policy.

Stoltenberg said on Twitter that he and Erdogan "agree that the security concerns of all Allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution."