Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, in Kazakhstan. Photo: Vyacheslav Prokofiev/Pool Sputnik Kremlin/AP/dpa
Turkey is still not paving the way for Sweden and Finland to join NATO. He hopes for more progress at the next Sweden-Finland-Turkey meeting in Stockholm at the end of November, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday after his first meeting with new Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Ankara. Sweden wants to join NATO for its own security – it is only right if it does everything to help Turkey with its security.
Kristersson said his country would fully comply with the memorandum signed at the end of June, including the memorandum on fighting terrorism. “Sweden will honor all the commitments it made to Turkey in the fight against the terrorist threat – both before its NATO membership and as a future ally,” he said at a press conference alongside Erdogan.
Only Hungary and Turkey are missing
In response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in mid-May. Until now, the two northernmost states of the EU have been close partners of the defense alliance, but not full-fledged members who could count on NATO’s help in the event of an attack. However, several parties provided security guarantees to both countries for the period of the accession process.
In general, these two countries have received a lot of support from NATO. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly campaigned for northern expansion, and 28 of the 30 members have already ratified the Swedish and Finnish proposals. Only Turkey and Hungary are missing. In northern Europe, Hungary is expected to be ready for ratification in December and that it should not be subject to any conditions.
Supporting a “terrorist organization”
On the other hand, it remains complicated with Turkey. It concerns the export of arms and, above all, the alleged Swedish and Finnish support of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey considers to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and thus a “terrorist organization.” The EU, which includes Sweden and Finland, also considers the PKK a terrorist organization – but not the YPG and its political offshoot, the PYD.
Kristersson emphasized that Sweden considers the PKK a terrorist organization. “Sweden understands that Turkey is involved in a long and bloody fight against PKK terrorism,” he said. “We know that Turkey is one of the NATO allies that has been hit the hardest by terrorism.”
Such news is not enough for Turkey. There are positive developments, but many steps still need to be taken, Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said, according to state news agency Anadolu, on Tuesday after his own meeting with Kristersson. For example, there has been no progress on the extradition request.
Are there other intentions behind it?
At the end of June, it appeared that the dispute would be resolved by an agreement between the three countries at the NATO summit in Madrid. However, Turkey continues to complain that the agreements made then, especially by Sweden, have not yet been fulfilled, including the extradition of more than 70 people. Observers suspect other intentions behind the Turkish blockade, such as concessions from the US regarding the supply of fighter jets. According to polls, Erdogan’s popularity among the population has increased even after the announced NATO blockade – and elections are to be held in Turkey in June 2023.
Sweden recently took a clear step toward Ankara, approving the export of war material to a NATO member state for the first time since 2019, and distancing itself from the YPG and PYD. The Swedish government also announced on Monday evening that it wants ten million Swedish crowns (around 920,000 euros) to support NATO’s voluntary contribution fund to fight terrorism. The purpose of this was to strengthen NATO’s role in the international fight against terrorism, the Stockholm Ministry of Defense (SDA) explained.