Finland woos Ankara by hinting it might buy Turkish drones

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Finland launched a charm offensive to win Turkey over to its NATO bid, suggesting it could buy Turkish drones and relax arms sales rules, while insisting it was tough against terrorism.

Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday that the Nordic country and Turkey could strike arms deals if they were both members of the Western alliance.

“There is Turkish weapon technology that Finland might be interested in. Everyone has been following these drones and other systems. But I don’t want to rush things. Let’s first look at the status of the ongoing negotiations,” a- he said at a press conference.

Turkey is currently blocking NATO applications for Finland and Sweden, and has accused them of supporting terrorists and having an arms embargo against Ankara.

A decision to buy Turkish drones – likely the Bayraktar TB2 which has been deployed by the Ukrainian military against Russian forces – would be seen as a positive move in Ankara.

The weapons, which are produced by a company co-owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law, have become the flagship of Turkey’s booming defense industry and are heavily promoted by Turkish diplomats in their discussions with governments. strangers.

Much of Turkey’s anger over the Nordic countries’ NATO bid appears directed at Sweden, which has a long history of accepting Kurdish asylum seekers and has had contact with Syrian groups that ‘Ankara calls terrorists.

Turkey, like the 30 members of NATO, has veto power over any nation seeking to join the military alliance, but nearly every other country wants a quick process while Russia is preoccupied with its war in Ukraine.

Haavisto said Finland had not banned arms from Turkey and exports were decided on a case-by-case basis, but added that NATO membership would be a consideration in any export decision. given the collective defense commitment of the military alliance.

While Finland has a relatively small arms industry, Sweden is one of the largest in Europe relative to its population, dominated by Saab, which manufactures fighter jets, submarines and other military equipment.

Separately, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö posted a blog post saying “Finland takes the fight against terrorism seriously” alongside a photo of him laying flowers in 2015 with his Turkish counterpart after a terror attack.

“Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and works actively to prevent it. Finland’s approach and actions in the fight against terrorism are already fully aligned with the general line of NATO countries, also with regard to the terrorism that Turkey faces. In this respect, too, the conditions for our membership are met”, Niinistö wrote.

Finnish officials were surprised by the sudden opposition from Turkey after Erdoğan’s initial pledges of support to Niinistö and among ministers.

Haavisto said Sweden and Finland needed to do their “homework”, but hinted at the possibility of progress by the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June.

The Finnish comments came after Sweden also sought to reassure Turkey that it had no ban on selling arms to Ankara. Karl Evertsson, head of the military equipment controls section at the Strategic Products Inspectorate, the Swedish bureaucracy that approves all arms exports, told the Financial Times that there was no embargo even though no license had been issued to Turkey since 2018.

“Assessments are based on Swedish defence, security and foreign policy interests. These interests may change over time. Whether and how Sweden’s export control policy is affected by a Swedish NATO membership is something that will likely be examined at a political level,” he added.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was convening senior officials from Turkey, Sweden and Finland in the coming days and hoped to push forward the candidacies of Sweden and Finland ahead of the NATO summit. NATO.

He said all NATO allies were “of course ready to sit down and address these concerns”, including the threats posed to Turkey by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a militia that has been campaigning violently against the Turkish state since the 1980s.

Additional reporting by Felicia Schwartz in Washington

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