Turkey remains concerned by alleged PKK activity in Finland

Turkish Defense Ministry via AP
In this photo provided by the Turkish Defense Ministry, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, right, and Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen shake hands during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey remains concerned by alleged activities of Kurdish militant groups inside Finland and expects Helsinki to take “concrete steps” before Ankara can approve its NATO membership, Turkey’s defense minister said Thursday.

Hulusi Akar made the comments during a joint news conference with Finland’s Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen, who is in Ankara to discuss his nation’s bid to join the military alliance.

“I have told them that we are disturbed by the PKK/YPG terror organizations and their supporters’ continued activities in Finland and that we have concerns about this,” Akar told reporters — in reference to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK and its Syrian affiliate, the Kurdish Protection Units, or YPG.

Sweden and Finland abandoned their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied for NATO membership after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, amid concerns that Moscow might target them next.

However, NATO-member Turkey has been holding up their bids to join the alliance, accusing the two Nordic countries of ignoring threats to Turkey from Kurdish militants and other groups it considers as terrorists. It has been pressing the two countries to crack down on these groups.

The parliaments of Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify their applications. The 28 other NATO states have already done so.

Kaikkonen insisted his country was committed to an agreement that was reached between Turkey, Sweden and Finland under which the two Nordics nations pledged to address Turkey’s security concerns.

“We take the security concerns of (Turkey) seriously,” he said.

Earlier this week, Turkish foreign minister said Ankara also wanted Finland to declare that it is lifting a de facto embargo on arms sales to Turkey, that was imposed following Turkey’s incursion into Syria in 2019.

But Kaikkonen said the country does not impose a weapons ban and assesses all sales on a case-by-case basis. Finland maintains it never enforced an actual arms embargo on Turkey, saying it merely stopped issuing licenses for some arms deals.

“There is no national arms embargo,” the Finnish minister said. “In future we will also take into account that we are both NATO allies.”

Meanwhile, Akar also said that Ankara expects all NATO allies’ cooperation toward the modernization of Turkey’s armed forces, including a swift approval from the United States on the sale of F-16 fighter jets.

Turkey is seeking to purchase 40 F-16 aircraft and some 80 kits to modernize its existing fleet, in compensation for it being removed from the U.S.-led F-35 fighter jet program.