ANKARA (Turkey), 25 May: Senior officials from Sweden and Finland met Turkish counterparts in Ankara on Wednesday in an attempt to overcome Turkey’s strong objections to the Nordic nations’ applications to join NATO.
Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join NATO last week. The move represents one of the biggest geopolitical consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine and could rewrite Europe’s security map.
Turkey has said it opposes its membership of the Western military alliance, citing complaints about Sweden’s – and to a lesser extent Finland’s – perceived support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other entities that Turkey sees as a security threat.
Listed as a terrorist organization by several of Turkey’s allies, the PKK has carried out a decades-long uprising against Turkey, a conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
The Turkish government also accuses Finland and Sweden of imposing arms export restrictions on Turkey and refusing to extradite suspected “terrorists”.
Turkey’s objections have dampened Stockholm and Helsinki’s hopes of joining NATO quickly in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and jeopardizing the credibility of the Transatlantic Alliance. All 30 NATO members must agree to bring in new members.
The Swedish and Finnish delegations met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal.
The Swedish delegation was led by State Secretary Oscar Stenström, while Jukka Salovaara, the Foreign Minister’s deputy secretary, led the Finnish delegation, Turkish officials have said.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said after a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel in Stockholm that her country wanted to “clarify” claims that have been floating around during discussions with Turkey.
– We do not send money or weapons to terrorist organizations, Andersson said.
During a press conference with the Estonian Prime Minister later Wednesday, Andersson said that “in these times, it is important to strengthen our security”.
She said that Sweden has “a constructive dialogue” with Turkey and that Stockholm is “eager to sort out questions and misunderstandings and questions”.
Michel, who is scheduled to go to Helsinki from Stockholm, said it was “a crucial moment for Sweden” and “we fully support your choices.”
This week, Turkey listed five “concrete assurances” it demanded from Sweden, including what they said was “cessation of political support for terrorism”, an “elimination of the source of terrorist financing” and “cessation of arms support” for Turkey. banned the PKK and a Syrian Kurdish militia group affiliated with it.
The demands also called for the lifting of arms sanctions against Turkey and global cooperation against terrorism.
Turkey said it had requested the extradition of Kurdish militants and other suspects since 2017 but had not received a positive response from Stockholm.
The Turkish government claimed that Sweden had decided to provide $ 376 million to support the Kurdish militants in 2023 and that they had provided them with military equipment, including anti-tank weapons and drones.
Finland has received nine extradition requests from Turkey in a recent period covering more than three years, the Finnish news agency STT said on Wednesday, citing information from the Finnish Ministry of Justice.
Two people were extradited, six of the requests were rejected. A decision was awaited in another case.
Sweden has refused to provide financial assistance or military support to Kurdish groups or units in Syria.
– Sweden is a major humanitarian donor to the Syrian crisis through global grants to humanitarian actors, says Foreign Minister Ann Linde to the newspaper Aftonbladet.
“Cooperation in northeastern Syria is carried out primarily through the United Nations and international organizations,” she said.
“Sweden does not provide targeted support to Syrian Kurds or to the political or military structures in northeastern Syria, but the people in these areas are naturally participating in these aid projects.”
On Tuesday before a meeting with the Council of the Baltic Sea States, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Russia had left Sweden and Finland “no choice” but to join NATO.
She said Germany would support the two countries’ membership, calling it a “real gain” for the military alliance. (AP)