Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making false allegations to justify his newfound opposition to Sweden's and Finland’s applications to join NATO, according to a senior Swedish envoy.

“We have a very strong anti-terrorist agenda,” Swedish Ambassador to the United States Karin Olofsodtter said Monday during a Center for European Policy Analysis event. “And a lot of their accusations, or most of the accusations [that] are coming out in detail from Ankara, are simply not true.”

Erdogan stunned Nordic officials and others in the West by denouncing Sweden and Finland as terrorist safe-havens just as NATO’s top diplomats descended on Berlin for a meeting focused in no small part on a plan to fast-track the approval of their applications to join the trans-Atlantic alliance. The root of his objections trace to long-standing disputes over how the U.S.-led coalition to dismantle the Islamic State group involved a partnership with Syrian Kurds, who bore the brunt of the fighting despite Erdogan’s fulminations that those Kurdish militias are entwined with militant separatists that have fought for decades against the Turkish central government.


“Neither of these countries have a clear, open attitude toward terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said Monday during a press conference. “How can we trust them?”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Sweden and Finland of “engaging with the PKK/YPG terrorist organization,” an allegation that reiterated Ankara’s conflation of the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish militias that fought IS. Swedish and Finnish officials, for their part, retaliated against Turkey’s 2019 attack on Kurdish positions in northeastern Syria by suspending arms sales to Turkey. Now, their request to join NATO, which only admits new members with the unanimous support of all existing allies, has given Erdogan’s government leverage over Stockholm and Helsinki.

"We are not closing the door,” Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters on Saturday. “But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey.”

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto described himself as “a bit confused,” saying Erdogan had volunteered last month that Turkey would be “favorably” inclined toward their application. Sweden and Finland hope to have a fast-tracked application process in order to minimize the risk that Russia retaliates by attacking prior to the ratification of the treaty that would entitle them to invoke the collective defense provision, Article 5, at the heart of the alliance.

“I think that what we need now is a very clear answer,” Niinisto said Sunday. “I’m prepared to have a new discussion with President Erdogan about the problems he has raised.”

Swedish officials hastened to announce that they will send a delegation to Ankara to try to break any prospective logjam. “We will send a group of diplomats to hold discussions and have a dialogue with Turkey so we can see how this can be resolved and what this is really about,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said Monday.

Erdogan adopted a forbidding posture about the visit, asserting that “they should not tire themselves” with the effort. Yet Olofsdotter predicted that the controversy would be resolved in short order.


“We are in very close consultation with the Turks,” she said during the CEPA event. “We are positive and have a positive outlook on this. ... We will talk through it.”