Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Sweden may be shocked when his country sends "a different message regarding Finland's accession to NATO," in the first indication that Turkey could separate the path of the two countries' accession to the alliance.
With the intensification of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the high possibility of it spreading to other countries, Sweden and Finland have changed their traditional position of neutrality, which they have long adhered to, and applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
And because the basic system of the alliance requires the unanimity of the member states to join any additional country, the two countries collided with the disagreement of Hungary and Turkey on the matter.
With regard to Turkey, the declared reasons were what the latter considered turning a blind eye and even supporting organizations, bodies and personalities working on the lands of the two countries to promote, mobilize supporters and collect money for terrorist organizations such as the PKK and the parallel entity (Veto Organization) led by Gulen and others, in addition to the two countries imposing an undeclared ban Officially - to supply arms to Ankara because of its military operations in Syria against the Syrian Democratic Forces, which Turkey considers the Syrian extension of the PKK.
The Swedish authorities allowed an extremist Danish politician - who holds Swedish citizenship - to burn a copy of the Noble Qur’an in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, which was considered by the Turkish presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, to encourage hate crimes and anti-Semitism.
Sweden was unique to the more rigid Turkish position, as Erdogan said that it "has turned into a hotbed and a haven for terrorists," in a direct criticism of its relations with parties revolving in the orbit of the Kurdistan Workers, such as the participation of its defense minister remotely in a conference of the Syrian Democratic Forces and the reception of its foreign minister and a delegation from it in Stockholm.
The Turkish narrative is based on the fact that NATO is a security organization in the first place, established with the aim of cooperation among member states in confronting security challenges collectively, and therefore it is unacceptable for some of its members to support terrorist organizations that threaten others.
Therefore, Ankara has publicly brandished its veto over the membership of Stockholm and Helsinki, unless they "reverse support for terrorist organizations and cooperate with Turkey" in this context.
Last June, on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, Sweden and Finland signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding with Turkey under the auspices of its Secretary-General, "Jens Stoltenberg", according to which Ankara lifted its veto on their accession to the alliance in exchange for their pledge to "support Turkey in the face of all threats to its national security." And not to provide any support to organizations that it classifies as terrorist, such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the parallel entity.
According to the memorandum, the two countries pledged to ban the activities of the PKK and any organizations or bodies associated with it or acting as a front for it, including propaganda, fund-raising and recruiting supporters, and additional steps, including, for example, "legal amendments to further stress crimes related to terrorism," and their interaction "quickly." And in all dimensions with Turkey's demands related to the return of suspects in terrorism cases," and denied the existence of an arms embargo to Turkey.
Ankara has linked its final approval of membership to the application of Sweden and Finland to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, and the current period is a stage of scrutiny of the extent of the two countries' commitment to what they signed.
After that, visits of delegations and meetings between the three countries continued, and before the end of last year Sweden handed over to Turkey a person accused of joining the PKK and convicted by the Turkish judiciary.
Although Ankara was under pressure from NATO as well as the United States of America, including statements by Stoltenberg himself that the two countries are cooperating well with Turkey, which leaves no reason to delay their inclusion in the alliance, but the latter was slow in evaluating the file.
Ankara said that the extent of the two countries' commitment is under consideration and scrutiny, adding that it is awaiting the constitutional amendments promised by Stockholm, which means that the delay is not on its part, stressing that "any step by Sweden and Finland will not remain unpaid."
Install the veto
While both Sweden and Finland were hoping for a positive Turkish position on their membership file in the alliance, especially with the intensification of the war in Ukraine and the increased risk of it directly reaching other countries, the new year brought unexpected tension and negative news for Sweden in particular.
In mid-January, a group close to the PKK organized a demonstration in Stockholm, in which they raised a picture of a hanged doll in the shape of the Turkish president, which required a sharp Turkish reaction.
In addition to summoning the Swedish ambassador and issuing a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament canceled a visit that was scheduled for his Swedish counterpart to Turkey, in protest against the Swedish authorities' permission for the demonstration.
Although the Swedish government said that the incident was unfortunate, and Prime Minister Ulf Christerson estimated that the organizers of the demonstration "were trying to obstruct the request made by their country to join NATO", this was not a sufficient reason to repeat the mistake in a more provocative way.
On the 21st of last month, that is, only days after the aforementioned demonstration, the Swedish authorities allowed an extremist Danish politician - who holds Swedish citizenship - to burn a copy of the Noble Qur’an in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, which was considered by the spokesman for the Turkish presidency, Ibrahim Kalin, “to encourage hate crimes and hostility towards the sublime.”
Turkish reactions condemning the event included the popular and official levels, including the government and opposition parties, and the government postponed a meeting with two delegations from Sweden and Finland regarding the membership file, and the Turkish Minister of Defense canceled a visit by his Swedish counterpart to Ankara, while the climax of the Turkish position came from Erdogan, who refused to justify the event. From the point of view of freedom of expression and democracy, he said that Sweden "should not expect Turkey's support in the file of its accession to NATO."
In practice, this meant that the path of Sweden's accession to NATO, in particular, was in the wind.
This is because Turkey's approval must pass through the approval of Parliament, which is racing against time to pass necessary bills before the country enters the atmosphere of elections officially.
That is, the available time slot was originally narrow - assuming there was a political will for that - and then narrowed further with the expected decision to advance the election date to next May 14 instead of June.
All of the above makes it almost impossible for Turkey to agree to Sweden's accession to NATO.
The time window available to Parliament is not sufficient, nor does the Turkish political will exist, especially in light of the popular rejection after the incident of burning a copy of the Noble Qur’an. It is not expected that the government will go to a decision of this kind before the elections, and it is also not expected that Stockholm will advance in this short time. What can satisfy Ankara, in addition to the fact that the United States did not do something similar, as rumors spread about Congress's attempt to link the file of accession of Sweden and Finland to the F-16 deal.
Accordingly, the file of Sweden's accession to the alliance remains in the wind, or at least within an unclear range, as this will depend to some extent on the next parliament, which no one can predict - let alone say for certain - about its composition, balances, and orientations, just as Erdogan won in The next elections will have a stronger position in this file than before the elections.
And because the two countries have linked their paths together until the moment, it is likely that consideration of the two countries’ file will be postponed until after the Turkish elections, but statements from both sides say that Finland’s chances still exist.
On the one hand, Helsinki, more than one official stated his country's desire to join, even after Erdogan's aforementioned statement.
On Turkey's side, Erdogan said that his country might shock Sweden with a different decision regarding the Finland file.
It is obvious that Turkey's position of this kind will spare Ankara additional pressure from NATO and the United States, as it will confirm its principled commitment to the policy of expanding the alliance, and that its decision is linked to technical and detailed factors, and on the other hand, it will add strength to its position against Sweden later.
However, Ankara may not go for this option unless Finland asks it - and NATO - to do so, as this also mitigate the effects of the Turkish decision.
In this direction were the previous statements of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that his country is not in the process of separating the files of the two countries.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Qalan reaffirmed it on January 31, indicating that his country would discuss Finland's request, if it happened, and added that the decision was her decision.
As a result, Turkey closed NATO's door in front of Sweden, but kept it ajar in front of Finland, throwing the ball in the latter's court, whose chances of joining before the Turkish elections still exist.