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Erdogan says talks with Sweden, Finland on NATO bids not at 'desired level'

Erdogan says talks with Sweden, Finland on NATO bids not at 'desired level'
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey speaks to the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2021 in New York City. File Photo by Eduardo Munoz/UPI | License Photo

May 29 (UPI) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said that talks in Ankara last week with Finland and Sweden about concerns for their bid to join NATO "did not happen at the desired level."

"Unfortunately, the talks held by our delegation with Finland and Sweden were not at the desired level," Erdogan told reporters, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

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"We cannot repeat the mistakes made in the past on (admitting) countries that embrace and feed such terrorists into NATO, which is a security organization."

Sweden and Finland announced earlier this month that the countries, which have long favored neutrality and nonalignment but like Finland, had changed their stances since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and would apply for NATO membership.

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The vote to approve membership in NATO must be unanimous by all 30 member nations and Turkey has expressed reticence in allowing the countries to join the alliance.

Erdogan has accused Sweden and Finland of harboring members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, a militant political group that seeks independence from Turkey. It has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

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After the meeting Friday, Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey is "not under time pressure to solve this issue until that summit," CNN reported.

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"We are determined to ensure that the process moves forward on a solid basis and that it progresses depending on the steps taken to meet Turkey's security concerns," Kalin said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the alliance would ensure a "quick and swift response" to the applications from Sweden and Finland.

President Joe Biden has assured the leaders of Finland and Sweden that the United States would fully back their applications for their NATO memberships.

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Erdogan's comments came as Russia said it has signed a new three-year deal with Serbia to supply it with natural gas as other European nations and the United States imposed sanctions on Russian oil and gas.

Serbia has long sought membership in the European Union and its decision not to follow with sanctions on Russia could ultimately damage its chances to join the EU.

Experts said Sunday that the Russian military is suffering "eroding military professionalism" as ground fighting continues in Ukraine.

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