After the three countries promised to defend each other’s security, NATO ally Turkey lifted its veto on Finland’s and Sweden’s application to join the Western Alliance. This put an end to a drama that lasted for weeks and tested Allied unity ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
By averting a humiliating stalemate at the meeting of 30 leaders aimed at showing determination against Russia – now seen by the US-led alliance as a direct security threat rather than a potential adversary – the breakthrough came after four hours of negotiations just before a NATO Summit began in Madrid.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed the news and revealed details in the memorandum.
What does the memorandum say?
The ten-article memorandum offers to establish a permanent framework for monitoring compliance and meets all of Turkey’s concerns. The agreement was announced just hours before the start of the NATO summit in Madrid, which intends to strongly condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and show support for Kyiv.
The promise of Finland and Sweden not to “give support” to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara sees as a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, is of particular importance. The group, which goes by the abbreviation PKK, has carried out a Kurdish uprising in Turkey for many years.
The two Nordic nations “confirm” that the PKK is a terrorist group by signing the pact. The future NATO members also promised to stop funding and recruiting the PKK and related organizations. In addition, they promised not to help Fethullah Gulen network, an exiled Turkish priest. In accordance with the European Convention on Extradition, Finland and Sweden have agreed to resolve Turkey’s outstanding requests for the extradition of individuals it considers terrorists.
Finally, after Turkey’s military action against YPG in Syria, the two Nordic countries decided to mitigate an arms embargo they imposed on Turkey in 2019.
Reciprocity for Turkey
“Turkey did not get everything it wanted, and Sweden certainly did not, but that is the art of diplomacy,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, quoted by AP News.
She pointed out that even though the agreement names the organizations that Turkey considers to be a threat, namely the YPG, it also prescribes that Sweden must follow its own legal extradition procedures. According to Aydintasbas, it would have been “catastrophic” for Turkey to delay or block NATO’s growth because it would have “opened a can of worms, including member states questioning Turkey’s place in NATO.”
Aydintasbas speculates that Turkey may have wanted a tougher language and increased US involvement in speeding up its requests from Washington, including additional F-16 fighter jets.
President Joe Biden made the decision to either keep the United States out of the negotiations or to position it in a way that would support Turkish demands, according to a senior U.S. administration official. According to the official, Turkey never requested anything from the United States during the discussions with Sweden, Finland and Stoltenberg.
What are the answers of Turkey, Sweden and Finland to this?
The NATO agreement was warmly embraced by the Turkish media, which largely takes a pro-government editorial stance. Erdogan “spelled it out” for leaders in Finland and Sweden, according to Hurriyet, while Sabah hailed it as “President Erdogan’s Madrid victory”.
While the great struggle in the debate involved the definition of terrorism and terrorist groups, “Our red line is that we do not change our legislation on any issues. We could not come to this type of meeting and then agree to change the legislation. We still follow the Finnish laws, ”said the Finnish minister.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto emphasized that Helsinki pointed out that the memorandum did not list the names of individuals. “In the case of extradition, we will comply with our own legislation and international agreements. Ultimately, extradition is a legal space for discretion that politicians do not have the right to influence,” Niinisto said.
Each extradition “will of course take place within the framework of national and international law”, said Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on radio SVT on Wednesday. Andersson explained, “We will never extradite Swedish citizens.”
Reply to Russia
The closure of the stalemate strengthens the alliance’s reaction to Russia, especially in the Baltic Sea, where the introduction of Finland and Sweden would give NATO a military lead.
Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic republics are already NATO members in the greater Nordic region. The conflict in Ukraine, which Moscow refers to as a “special military operation”, helped to dispel Sweden’s long-standing reluctance to join NATO
Both the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson and the President of the United States Joe Biden praised the agreement. While Biden in a Twitter post called it a “decisive step towards a NATO invitation to Finland and Sweden, which will strengthen our alliance and strengthen our collective security”, Johnson called it “fantastic news” to start the summit.
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