With every new statement he makes about Sweden's and Finland's applications for NATO membership, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan maneuvers himself further into a corner from which there may be no way out.

On his return flight from Baku to Ankara on Sunday, he said that as long as he is President of the Republic of Turkey, Ankara will not allow countries that support terrorism to join NATO.

Rainer Herman

Editor in Politics.

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After all, NATO is a security organization.

He commented disparagingly on the fruitless talks that delegations from Sweden and Finland had held in Ankara in the days before.

In parallel with the talks, terrorists were free to roam the streets of Sweden, Erdogan claimed, and "a terrorist named Salih Muslim" was allowed to speak on Swedish television.

During the war against "Islamic State" (IS) in Kurdish northern Syria, he was the chairman of the PYD, which classifies Turkey and its military arm, the YPG, as a terrorist organization.

An assertion with no factual basis

Furthermore, Erdogan claimed on the plane that the United States not only supplied the YPG with weapons, but also provided military training to the PKK - a claim that is not supported by any facts.

Devlet Bahceli, head of the far-right MHP, which supports Erdogan's government, went one step further.

Should NATO continue to ignore Turkey's security interests and its demands on Sweden and Finland, Ankara should consider withdrawing from NATO and founding a new security alliance, Bahceli advised.

He referred to the key demands that Turkey is making directly to the two Scandinavian countries and indirectly to all NATO countries: stop alleged support for the PKK, end cooperation with its sister organization YPG and lift the arms embargo on Ankara.

Turkey expects that the YPG/PYD will also be treated as a terrorist organization;

Ankara's wish list also includes the demand to extradite more than 30 people classified as "terrorists" to Turkey.

Some names are circulating in the pro-government Turkish press.

For example, Sweden should extradite Ragip Zarakolu.

So far, the left-liberal publisher and critic of Erdogan has never been associated with "terrorism".

The well-known Turkish journalist Cengiz Candar, who now also lives in exile in Sweden, warned the government in Stockholm against giving in to Ankara's demands.

The extradition of dissidents would be tantamount to undermining the rule of law, he wrote.

NATO must not leave the design of the European security architecture and the future of western democracies to an autocrat.

Ankara wants to test the attitude of the accession candidates and NATO with a new military operation in northern Syria that was announced last week.

The National Security Council meeting under Erdogan last Thursday approved the planned fourth invasion of the Turkish army in northern Syria since 2016.

"We will put an end to terrorism and terrorists," Erdogan said on the flight home from Baku.

He had previously stated that the goal was to create a 30-kilometer-deep "security zone" along the border on Syrian territory in order to settle a million Syrian refugees there.

Washington warns

Turkey justifies the planned operation by saying that the YPG is shelling the "security zones" that have been created since 2016, i.e. occupied areas.

In addition, Russia had withdrawn tens of thousands of soldiers from Syria who were stationed in the areas around Aleppo, Tal Rifaat, Kobane and Hasakeh.

Units of the YPG had moved into the positions.

The invasion will start one night and without prior notice, Erdogan said.

His announcements suggest Turkey is aiming for a corridor stretching from Idlib through Afrin to at least Ras al-Ain.

There would be fighting north of Aleppo and around Kobane in particular.

Several thousand Syrian rebels want to fight on the side of the Turkish army against the Kurdish militia YPG.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman warned that the invasion could endanger American soldiers, local civilians and the fight against IS.

That's not what Turkey hopes to hear.