Türkiye’s concerns ‘all legitimate and must be addressed’: NATO chief Featured

Türkiye’s security concerns on Nordic membership bids are legitimate and must be addressed, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid, Stoltenberg said “no ally has suffered more at the hands of terrorists ... including grievous attacks by the terrorist group PKK.”

The NATO chief said the alliance should redouble its efforts in the fight against terrorism, and a special session devoted to NATO's counterterrorism efforts will be convened during the summit in the Spanish capital.

“We are now working together on an agreement between Sweden, Finland, and our ally Türkiye to further address security concerns, including around arms exports and the fight against terrorism,” said Stoltenberg.

He said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson have agreed to meet on Tuesday at the summit.

“That will be a further opportunity to address Türkiye's concerns and move forward with NATO accession for Finland and Sweden,” he added.

Sweden, along with Finland, formally applied to join NATO last month, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24.

But Türkiye, a longstanding member of the alliance, has voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting the terrorist groups.

For her part, Andersson said “our stance regarding PKK is crystal clear. It is listed as a terror organization by the European Union, and is regarded as such by Sweden.”

“Sweden condemns terrorism in the strongest possible terms. We are unequivocally committed to the fight against terrorists in all its forms and manifestations,” she added.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people.

Swedish, Finnish, and Turkish officials met in Brussels on Monday, Sweden's premier said, voicing “strong hope that dialogue can be successfully concluded in near future.”

“Sweden will contribute to the security of NATO as a whole, including Türkiye, in the spirit of solidarity,” she said.

Andersson said she spoke to the Turkish president on Saturday and the talk was “good and constructive.”

Continuing on Sweden’s efforts in the fight against terrorism, the prime minister said “constitutional amendments are being prepared, which would pave the way for criminalization of participation in terrorist organizations.”

“There should be no doubt that Sweden will continue to stand firm alongside other like-minded countries in the fight against terrorists,” she added.

Türkiye’s requests for extradition of terrorists are “handled swiftly and carefully” by the Swedish legal system, in accordance with the European convention on extradition, Andersson said.

"Sweden is not and will not be a safe haven for terrorists, the relevant authorities work intensively in order to expel persons who could be a security threat. And there are a substantial number of cases which are currently processed,” the prime minister said./aa