Turkey demands that Sweden take concrete steps ahead of NATO approval

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Ankara demands that Sweden and Finland extradite Kurdish rebels before lifting a veto on their membership bids.

Ankara has conveyed its request to Sweden to work to counter “terrorism” threats before approving the country’s application to join NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

“We understand their security concerns and we want Sweden to respond to ours,” Erdogan said after meeting the Swedish prime minister at the presidential palace in Ankara on Tuesday.

The Turkish leader, who accused the Scandinavian nation and its neighbor Finland of harboring Kurdish rebel groups banned in Turkey, added that he “desperately wished” Sweden to join the US-led military alliance.

Another meeting on the NATO membership bid was scheduled for later this month, he said, without specifying the date.

Sweden and Finland have abandoned their longstanding policies of military non-alignment and have applied for NATO membership this year after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, fearing Russian President Vladimir Putin would attack them next.

But Turkey, which joined NATO in 1952, has not yet ratified their accession, which requires unanimous approval from existing alliance members.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he understood Turkey’s fight against “terrorism” and promised to respond to his requests.

Erdogan has demanded that Oslo and Helsinki extradite members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish state for decades and is considered a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies.

In particular, Turkey accused Sweden of leniency towards the PKK and its Syrian branch, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). In June, the company said it had provided Oslo and Helsinki with a list of people it wanted to extradite.

The PKK is blacklisted by Ankara and most of its western allies. But the YPG has been a key player in the US-led military alliance fighting the ISIL (ISIS) group in Syria.

Kristersson described Tuesday’s meeting with Erdogan as “very productive”.

“Sweden will honor all obligations made to Turkey in countering the terrorist threat,” he said.

“My government was elected just a few weeks ago with the mandate to put public order first. And this includes fighting terrorism and terrorist organizations like the PKK in Sweden,” he added.

While Sweden has in the past expressed support for the YPG and its political wing, Kristersson’s government appears to be stepping back.

The Swedish parliament said it would vote next week on a constitutional amendment that would make it possible to tighten anti-terror laws, a key Turkey demand.

The amendment would allow for new laws to “restrict the freedom of association of groups involved in terrorism,” the parliament said in a statement, adding that the vote was scheduled for Nov. 16.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Ankara last week to plead the case for Sweden and Finland, saying their accession would “send a clear message to Russia”.

Stoltenberg stressed that the two had agreed in June on concessions to Turkey, including granting his request to deport or extradite “terror suspects”.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told reporters on Monday that he expected NATO accession to happen “within a reasonable amount of time”.

In August, Sweden announced it had decided to extradite a man in his thirties to Turkey who was wanted for fraud. The move was the first case since Turkey required Stockholm to cooperate in renditions.

Turkey vetoed Finland and Sweden’s bid in June after weeks of tense negotiations. Turkey has since expressed frustration at the lack of progress.



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