Swedish and Finnish NATO bids put to test as officials meet with Turkish officials

ISTANBUL — Turkish, Swedish and Finnish officials met on August 26 to discuss the June deal on Nordic NATO candidacies, as Turkey doubts they will keep their promises.

Stockholm and Helsinki abandoned their longstanding policies of military non-alignment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, announcing their intention to join the Atlantic Defense Pact.

The move was widely welcomed by the alliance’s 30 members, but Turkey has insisted it will not endorse the move, which must be accepted by all member states unless the two countries agree. tighten their approach to terrorism.

Ankara was particularly concerned about the activities of supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, as well as those associated with an attempted coup in Turkey. in 2016.

The latter, dubbed Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization (FETO) by the Turkish government after the group’s US-based leader, Fethullah Gulen, is not internationally recognized as a terrorist threat beyond Turkey and some allies.

Turkey further demanded action against the Syrian branch of the PKK, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG is not considered a terrorist entity by Western powers, a situation that has proven to be a thorn in Turkey’s relations with the West, especially given the role of Kurdish fighters in the campaign led by the United States against the Islamic State in Syria.

A deal reached at the NATO summit in Madrid on June 28 appeared to ease Ankara’s concerns, with Nordic governments promising tougher action against those Turkey considers terrorists. They also agreed to deal with Turkey’s pending extradition requests “promptly and thoroughly”.

Speaking on Wednesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde outlined the purpose of Friday’s meeting in Finland. “The question is how we should follow up on the agreement reached by Turkey, Sweden and Finland at the NATO summit in Madrid, which was a precondition for Turkey to accept Sweden’s demands and Finland,” she said.

On closer reading, the June memorandum seems to give Sweden and Finland significant leeway. The extradition clause, for example, stipulates that cases will be tried in accordance with the European Convention on Extradition.

Days after the deal was signed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey would continue to block NATO’s northern expansion if its expectations were not met.

Sweden and Finland’s membership must be approved by the legislatures of each member state, including Turkey, where Erdogan controls parliament through his ruling party and allies.

Over the weekend, Turkish Justice Minister Bezir Bozdag said Friday’s meeting of the accord’s monitoring committee could be bumpy.

“Currently, none of the persons accused of terrorist crimes from Sweden and Finland, whose extradition has been requested by Turkey, have been extradited to Turkey,” he told reporters in Istanbul.

He said Turkey had resubmitted previous extradition requests for terror suspects and filed documents in new cases following the June deal. Erdogan said Sweden had promised to return 73 suspected terrorists as part of the deal.

“After this communication, there has been no positive or negative response from either country to Turkey until today,” Bozdag said, adding that the extradition of a Turkish national wanted for fraud recently announced by Sweden was not part of the agreement. .

“Until Turkey’s expectations in this regard are met, Sweden and Finland will not be deemed to have fulfilled their promise made to Turkey in the tripartite agreement,” the minister added. “The process of joining NATO will therefore not go any further.”

Turkish authorities have not commented on the reported extradition case in Sweden against a Turkish national accused of supporting the PKK.

“Joining states in which PKK members are rampaging through the streets will harm the values ​​that NATO stands for,” Erdogan said Aug. 8. “We maintain our clear and determined position regarding Finland and Sweden.”

He added, “No NATO country should be a haven for FETO cowards and PKK terrorists fleeing Turkish justice.”

Ankara’s patience has also been tested by demonstrations of support for the PKK and YPG since June. Swedish Left Party lawmakers, who oppose NATO membership, posed with PKK and YPG flags at a political rally, and other demonstrations in support of the groups took place in all the countries.

Linde called the promotion of actions by Left Party lawmakers “completely unacceptable.” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson added: “The PKK is a designated terrorist organisation, not just in Sweden but in the EU, and posing with such flags is extremely inappropriate.

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