When Finland and Sweden signalled they were thinking of making the historic decision joining NATO, the alliance expected a tough response from Moscow, not from one of its own.
Yet at a gathering of NATO foreign ministers with their Finnish and Swedish counterparts on Saturday to celebrate the biggest shift in European security in decades, Turkey’s participant darkened the mood.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was “in crisis mode”, a NATO diplomat told Reuters of the evening meeting in Berlin. A day earlier Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, had shocked fellow NATO members by saying he could not support membership for either Finland or Sweden.
Cavusoglu not only set conditions for Turkey accepting the membership bids but raised his voice at Sweden’s Ann Linde in what three NATO diplomats said was an “embarrassing” break in protocol.
“For us it was a historic moment and yet Cavusoglu said he was irritated at Linde’s ‘feminist policy’, bringing so much drama,” another NATO diplomat said, describing a very tense atmosphere in the German foreign ministry in Berlin, in which many allies opted for silence to calm the situation.
We were trying to understand what our Turkish colleague wanted – you know, really wanted,” said the diplomat, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It was embarrassing.”
Ankara’s main demands are for the Nordic countries to halt support for Kurdish militant groups present on their territory, and to lift their bans on some sales of arms to Turkey.
A Turkish diplomatic source said Cavusoglu had outlined Turkey’s stance respectfully, rejecting what he said was an allegation from Linde that its opposition was due to Sweden’s feminist foreign policy.
“Her comments are not helping Sweden’s NATO bid, while the statements coming from Finland are carefully crafted,” the source said. Sweden’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours.