Could Turkey block Finland and Sweden from joining NATO? : NPR

It appears that Sweden’s and Finland’s pledges to fight militant groups have caused Turkey to drop its objections to those countries joining NATO. But this is not quite a closed subject in Turkey yet.



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At the end of June, NATO invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance after one of its main members, Turkey, said it was dropping its objections to the move. NPR’s Peter Kenyon in Istanbul reports on what Turkey got from the deal and what else the country is looking for now.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: A three-way summit in Madrid between Turkey, Sweden and Finland resulted in an agreement that the Nordic countries would counter the PKK, a group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also wants a crackdown on Syrian Kurdish militants and elements he says backed a failed coup against him and continue to find support in northern Europe. And then there is the question of the extradition of suspected terrorists. Erdogan said Sweden and Finland promised to deliver 73 suspects to Turkey. He is heard by an interpreter.

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PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Through interpreter) Well, what matters here is what we understand from the talks. And Sweden, with this agreement and this memorandum, gave its word and promised that these 73 terrorists would be extradited to us. We will see if they will give or not.

KENYON: In the days since the summit, it has become clear that Turkey still wants proof that Sweden and Finland will keep their promises. The summit’s memorandum of understanding says the two countries will process Turkey’s pending extradition requests without saying how many people could be extradited. Sinan Ulgen, director of the Istanbul Center for Economic Studies and Foreign Policy, says there are at least two key points to consider. First of all, he says, it is not for the governments in Stockholm and Helsinki to decide. It is up to them to rule on extradition requests.

SINAN ULGEN: Whether the Swedish and Finnish judicial authorities actually approve all extradition requests is very uncertain, so down the road we might encounter another stumbling block.

KENYON: And if that turns out to be the case, how might Turkey react? Erdogan’s threat has been that Ankara will not ratify this NATO enlargement. But some wonder if Turkey would actually carry out this threat. According to analyst Soli Ozel of Kadir Has University in Istanbul, other NATO countries are expected to approve the ratification shortly. Canada has already done that. Will Turkey be the intruder? Ozel doesn’t think so, not least because he says Turkey is desperate to get new F-16 fighter jets from the United States. President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve the sale, but Ozel said lawmakers may be reluctant to do so if Turkey does not approve ratification of Finland and Sweden’s bid to join. NATO.

SOLI OZEL: So I feel like there’s a quid pro quo, F-16s for approval, and how that’s going to play out, I don’t know. We can see tensions in the process, but ultimately, I really don’t see it blocked by the Turkish parliament.

KENYON: The Madrid summit also set up a new mechanism for permanent consultation between Turkey, Sweden and Finland in the fight against terrorism. Analysts say that with Erdogan facing elections next year, this issue of tackling groups he sees as terrorists will remain a priority but one he will pursue without risking his ties to the West. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEINRICH SCHLUPF AND LOUFISH’S “BEES AND APPLE TREES”)

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