Turkey's security concerns are as important as those of Finland and Sweden, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a visit to Tallinn on Wednesday, commenting on his country's delay in ratifying the two countries' NATO membership.
Cavusoglu said he understood the importance of Sweden and Finland joining NATO to Estonia and the wider region. He added that Turkey has been doing its best to strengthen the eastern flank.
"It is very clear in NATO documents that there are two threats for NATO: the Russian Federation, like it or not, and terrorism. While we understand the legitimate concerns of Estonia, as well as the two candidate countries, it is very legitimate that we expect our allies to understand Turkey and other countries' security concerns in terms of terrorism or counter-terrorism," Cavusoglu said at a press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Cavusoglu said the trilateral memorandum signed between Finland, Sweden and Turkey last summer must be fulfilled before the countries can join the alliance.
"But despite this political will that they have been expressing during our meetings when they make a statement, we have not seen any concrete step, from Sweden particularly, to honor their commitments and to implement this trilateral memorandum," said the Turkish foreign minister.
He said Turkey has "less problems" with Finland's application and it would look "more favorably" on its bid if it uncoupled from Sweden. The two Nordic countries must make their own decisions about how to progress, Cavusoglu said, adding Turkey cannot separate the bids itself.
One of Turkey's biggest concerns is that Sweden had allowed and offered protection to an activist who had burned a copy of the Koran, he said, adding Finland has not.
Cavusoglu accepted there were forces behind these actions who want to hold up the application process and stop the country's bids from being accepted to NATO.
"I cannot say that this country or that country, this group or that group, is behind these kinds of provocations. But I can tell you one thing very clearly that the aim of the provocateurs is actually to prevent Sweden's membership. The PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] supporters and they know that when Finland and Sweden, particularly Sweden, become NATO members there will be more pressure on them," said Cavusoglu.
But the minister said, without solid evidence, it is hard to pinpoint which country is behind the moves. Blame has also been laid at Russia's door, while Turkey points a finger at the PKK.
Reisalu said, for Estonia, Finland and Sweden joining NATO is an "existential issue" and that they should be allowed to join in a "smooth" way. He said it is important that NATO's strategic security vision is not harmed by "provocations" that may be caused by "our joint adversaries".
Reinsalu said he had spoken to officials in Sweden earlier in the week who said the country is currently facing a major information operation.
Cavusoglu said Turkey supports NATO's open-door policy and that both Finland ad Sweden should join the alliance. But while their applications have not been ratified, NATO's collective defense clause will not apply to them, he added.
Speaking about Ukraine, Cavusoglu said the war must end in a "fair peace" for Ukraine and that Turkey support's the country's territorial integrity. He said Turkey had recognized the annexation of Crimea nor the sham referendums in eastern Ukraine.
"But in the end, we believe that this war will end at the negotiating table. There will be no winner of this war. This is what we are trying to do, to facilitate as mediator and we also need the support of other countries, to bring the two sides back to the table. Of course, it is up to them in the end, we cannot insist. Any peace, any ceasefire, should be acceptable for both sides," he said, adding these agreements cannot be dictated by other countries.
Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright