Turkey slams Sweden ahead of NATO chief’s visit to appease Erdogan

Ankara has once again accused Sweden of failing to meet its commitments under a trilateral memorandum signed in June with Finland, according to which Turkey would ratify the Nordic countries’ NATO membership if it met a its concerns on issues related to terrorism.

In a briefing to journalists on Monday after a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) executive committee, AKP spokesman Omer Celik said Sweden “is doing very nice and elegant promises at the highest level”, but that they took no concrete action. so far.

Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members not to have ratified Sweden and Finlandto join the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is due to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on November 4 in a bid to break the deadlock ahead of Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s planned visit to Turkey on November 8. november. The conflict in Ukraine and rising tensions between Turkey and Greece will also be on the table.

Kristersson sent a 14-point letter to Erdogan in which he reportedly outlined steps taken to address Turkey’s security concerns. According to Swedish media, Kristersson said that Sweden takes these concerns “very seriously” and wants to “cooperate in the fight against terrorism, including threats from the terrorist organization PKK and all other terrorist organizations and their branches”. He was referring to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is very active within the Kurdish ethnic community in Sweden.

Reuters, which first indicated on the letter dated October 6, said it contained assurances that Sweden had stepped up measures against Kurdish militants, with Swedish counter-terrorism police stepping up “work against the PKK”. Sweden said it would process pending extradition requests.

Turkey demands the extradition of many people it accuses of links to the PKK and others associated with Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Sunni imam who allegedly orchestrated the failed coup in 2016. Sweden has until present responded positively to a case of this type involving a fraudster.

Kristersson and Erdogan have spoken on the phone last week, and Erdogan said he would be happy to have him. However, Celik’s remarks suggest that the Swedish government’s measures have not broken the ice.

Sources with close knowledge of the deliberations speaking anonymously to Al-Monitor said Stoltenberg was lobbying Kristerrson’s centre-right government that was formed earlier this month in the same way it did its predecessors. to make concessions to Turkey. “He pressured the Swedes to turn away from their supposedly ‘rigid’ approach to human rights embodied by [former Foreign Minister] Anne Linde. The idea is that he paves the way for Kristersson’s visit on November 8 in Ankara, said one of the sources.

“Erdogan’s people will love Stoltenberg and his usual talking points,” the source added, saying the NATO chief was “blind” to Turkey’s appalling human rights record and its close ties with Russia.

Linde, a social democrat, has long been one of Ankara’s main pet peeves for her vocal support for the US-backed Syrian Kurdish administration in northeast Syria, which Turkey says is occupied by “terrorists” because of their links to the PKK.

The prevailing consensus is that Turkey is likely to let Finland’s bid continue, but not Sweden’s. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said last week Erdogan told her he had more questions for Sweden than for his country but there was no question of leaving Sweden behind. Marin and Kristersson are committed to join NATO at the same time at a joint press conference in Helsinki last week.

In a tribune for the daily newspaper Expressen, the president of the Union of Swedish Journalists, Ulrike Hyllert, noted that “Turkey invokes democratic principles to put pressure on Sweden. The problem is that Turkey has long since abandoned all democratic principles.

Hungarian Viktor Orban, a close ally of Erdogan who is also friendly with Russia, has signaled that he will allow Sweden and Finland to join before the end of the year, leaving Turkey alone.

In a column of the Swedish daily Svenksa Dagbladet Titled “Don’t just listen to Erdogan, Mr. Kristersson,” Bitte Hammargen, an independent Turkey and Middle East analyst and senior research associate at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, urged his government not to back down. pressure, saying Sweden cannot compromise on the rule of law.

“Many of us have been advocating for Sweden to remain patient and principled,” Hammargen told Al-Monitor. “After all, if Russian aggression expands in the region, NATO will give its full support to Sweden and Finland, whether they are members or not.”

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