Finland must lift arms embargo on Ankara: Turkish FM

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Finland must lift an arms embargo on Ankara as a condition to securing support from Turkey for its NATO membership bid, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

Finland and Sweden both asked to join NATO this year in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but longtime member Turkey refused to endorse their request until a number of demands were met, including taking a tougher stance against Kurdish militants and removing a ban on arms sales.

While Sweden lifted the embargo in September - initially imposed by both countries in 2019 in response to Ankara’s incursion against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia - Finland has not followed suit.

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“It is important that Finland’s defense minister is coming to Turkey,” Cavusoglu said, referring to a visit scheduled for December 8.

“Because there has not yet been a statement from Finland that they have lifted the arms embargo against us. We expect such a statement from them,” he added.

Ankara has accused the Nordic countries, mainly Sweden, of harboring people it considers terrorists, including members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the group accused of orchestrating a 2016 failed coup.

It has requested that Stockholm extradite a number of these people. Turkey said Sweden’s extradition of a Kurdish man at the weekend was a “good start” but cautioned that more needed to be done.

Cavusoglu said on Tuesday the man was not one of those Ankara had requested from Stockholm and that people on the list still needed to be extradited and their assets seized.

Stockholm and Helsinki deny sheltering militants but have pledged to cooperate with Ankara to fully address its security concerns and also to lift arms embargoes.

NATO makes its decisions by consensus, meaning that the two Nordic nations require the approval of all 30 alliance member states. Only Turkey still stands opposed to their membership, though Hungary has also yet to ratify it.

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