Even as Finland and Sweden are accused of supporting the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian branch YPG, a policy that continues to stall their NATO membership bids, supporters of the terrorist group took to the streets of the countries' capitals and openly held protests Saturday.
YPG/PKK sympathizers gathered in front of the Finnish parliament and called on Helsinki to reject Turkish demands that it cease supporting and tolerating the terrorist group.
The protest stretched on for about two hours, with participants carrying banners and symbols of the terrorist group.
In Sweden, carrying posters showing the YPG/PKK's convicted ringleader serving a life sentence in Turkey, supporters of the YPG/PKK met in Norra Bantorget Square in the capital Stockholm and called on the government to impose an arms embargo on Ankara.
Sweden is under pressure from Turkey to end its support for the YPG/PKK if it wants to join NATO, with Ankara saying the bloc is a security alliance and that any potential members must take a clear stance against terrorism.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reaffirmed Turkey's stance against Sweden and Finland's push to become NATO members.
As long as terrorist leaders’ speeches are broadcasted on Swedish state television, Turkey cannot welcome them to NATO, Erdoğan said Wednesday.
"NATO is a security organization, not a terrorist organization," he said. "Turkey cannot support Sweden's NATO bid while its state television broadcasts interviews of terrorist leaders, and the same goes for Finland," he added.
On Sweden and Finland's bids to join NATO, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey expects concrete steps to meet its legitimate concerns.
He said Ankara was first expecting an official response from Helsinki and Stockholm, before a possibility of a trilateral meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Sweden and Finland applied to join the Western defense alliance last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but their bids have faced resistance from Turkey, which has accused them of supporting terrorist groups.
While the two Nordic countries have said talks would continue to resolve the dispute, Erdoğan said last week that Ankara had not received any responses to its demands, including stopping support for groups Turkey considers terrorists, lifting arms embargoes on Ankara and extraditing suspects it seeks.
Any bid to join NATO requires backing from each of its 30 members. Turkey, which has been a NATO ally for over 70 years, has said it will not change its view unless the Nordic countries take “concrete steps” about its concerns.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Washington that he would convene senior officials from Finland, Sweden and Turkey in Brussels in the coming days to discuss the issue. NATO leaders will convene on June 29-30 in Madrid.
Earlier, Erdoğan said NATO was not an organization that could provide protection from terrorism, citing demonstrations and events organized by the PKK terrorist group in allied countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Greece, whose envoy to Ankara was summoned over the issue.
The president said Ankara would not “fall for the same mistake” while PKK members “roam free” in Finland and Sweden. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
In late May, Turkey hosted consultations with Swedish and Finnish delegations in Ankara on their NATO applications. Erdoğan said the meetings had not been “at the desired level.”
Meanwhile, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Friday that Sweden aims to make constructive progress in talks with Turkey over the Nordic country's application to join NATO, which Ankara has opposed due to the country’s support for terrorism.
Ankara's main demands are for the Nordic countries to halt support for the PKK/YPG in their territory and to lift their bans on sales of some arms to Turkey. Ankara says the arms ban against an ally is inappropriate for prospective members of the security pact.