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Why Sweden’s Stance on Kurds Riles Turkey’s Erdogan

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Turkey Says No to Sweden and Finland Joining NATO
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At the heart of Turkey’s threat to stop NATO’s Nordic expansion is a clash of viewpoints over Kurdish political groups. Sweden, which along with Finland is seeking entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has been one of Europe’s most willing recipients of migrants fleeing conflict, including Kurds. Turkey opposes Kurdish demands for statehood and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has called Sweden a “nesting ground for terrorist organizations.” Since NATO admits new members only by unanimous consent, his views can’t easily be ignored. 

The Kurds are an Indo-European people, about 30 million strong, and one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state of their own. Their homeland is divided among Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has fought Turkish forces on and off since the mid-1980s as it seeks an autonomous region for Kurds inside Turkey. Turkey is particularly focused on the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a Kurdish militia in Syria that was instrumental in the defeat of the Islamic State there. Turkey views the YPG as a security threat due to its ties to separatist Kurds in Turkey.