NATO membership: Erdogan threatens Sweden and Finland again

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again threatened to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO less than 48 hours after the three countries’ deal.

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Speaking to the press at the end of the Atlantic Alliance Summit in Madrid, he called on the two Nordic countries to “assume their role in the fight against terrorism” or risk burying the memorandum signed Tuesday night.

Ankara has been blocking the enlargement process to include the two countries since mid-May, accusing them of protecting Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it counts among the terrorist movements.

But on Tuesday evening the governments of Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a memorandum of understanding opening up the two Nordic nations’ access to the Atlantic alliance.

On Thursday, the Turkish President spoke for the first time since that surprise commitment. And he made his terms.

“If they do their duty, we will submit [le mémorandum] “If they don’t do that, there’s no question for us to send it to Parliament,” he warned.

A senior Turkish diplomat in Washington has assured that the adoption process could take place no earlier than late September and could wait until 2023, when parliament goes into recess starting Friday.

Mr Erdogan referred to a “promise by Sweden” regarding the extradition of “73 terrorists”. “They will send her back, they promised. It’s in written documents. They will keep their promise,” he added without further detail.


Stockholm responded on Thursday evening by pointing out that its extradition decisions were subject to an “independent” judiciary.

“In Sweden, Swedish law applies with independent courts,” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said in a written statement to AFP.

“Non-Swedes can be extradited at the request of other countries, but only if this is compatible with Swedish law and the European Convention on Extradition,” he stressed.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not provide details on Thursday about the 73 targets, but Ankara has for several years been demanding the extradition of Kurdish activists or people close to the Gülenist movement who live in exile in Sweden.

The Turkish leader also called on Finland and Sweden to “complete their laws” regarding the presence on their soil of members of the PKK and the YPG, who operate on Turkey’s borders in northern Iraq and Syria.

“What matters is that the promises made to Turkey are kept,” he stressed.

The Turkish President therefore returned in the end, the center of attention at the opening of the Madrid summit, when he threatened to veto the accession of the two countries.

In the aisles of the summit, a European diplomatic source did not hesitate to speak of “blackmail” against the Turkish leader, who on Thursday confidently occupied the stage of the summit’s largest press room, succeeding White House chief Joe Biden.

“International right”

According to the memorandum signed on Tuesday, Turkey is lifting its veto on the two Nordic countries joining NATO in exchange for their cooperation with members of the Kurdish movements concerned.

The very next day, Ankara asserted its claim and demanded the extradition of 33 “terrorists” from Sweden and Finland.

All are members of the PKK, viewed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its western allies, or the movement founded by preacher Fethullah Gülen, who accuses Mr Erdogan of fomenting the July 2016 coup attempt.

The request was coldly received in Helsinki and Stockholm.

“All these cases have already been solved in Finland,” commented Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

For its part, the Finnish Ministry of Justice stated that “in the last few days it has not received any new extradition requests from Turkey”.

For her part, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson promised on Wednesday to “work more closely with Turkey on the lists [combattants] the PKK”.

“But we will of course continue to respect Swedish law and international law,” she added in a message posted to Instagram.

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