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NATO

Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party backs Nato bid

Sweden's ruling Social Democratic Party on Sunday said it was in favour of joining NATO, reversing its decades-long opposition and paving the way for the country to submit a membership application.

Sweden's ruling Social Democratic Party backs Nato bid
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson holds a press conference announcing that the Social Democrats agree to a a Swedish application for NATO membership. Photo Fredrik Persson / TT

The turnaround comes amid soaring political and public support in Sweden for joining the Western military alliance after Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine.

The issue has divided Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Social Democrats, with some party members expressing concern that the decision was being rushed through.

The party said on Sunday that if Sweden’s application were approved, it would work to express “unilateral reservations against the deployment of nuclear weapons and permanent bases on Swedish territory.”

The announcement came just hours after neighbouring Finland announced its official intention to apply for membership.

The two countries have expressed a desire to act in unison and submit their applications jointly, in a move seen as a deterrent against aggression from Russia.

A security policy review by the parties in Sweden’s parliament presented on Friday concluded that Swedish NATO membership would reduce the risk of conflict in northern Europe.

The report stopped short of offering a concrete recommendation on whether to join, but noted that it was “not realistic to develop bilateral defence alliances outside existing European and Euro-Atlantic structures.”

It also noted that “within the framework of current cooperation, there is no guarantee that Sweden would be helped if it were the target of a serious threat or attack.”

Sweden, which was neutral in World War II, has stayed out of military alliances for more than 200 years, though it has forged closer ties with Nato since the 1990s.

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SWEDEN AND TURKEY

Sweden extradites first Turk since striking Nato deal

Sweden's government said on Thursday that it would hand over a Turkish citizen convicted of credit card fraud to Ankara, the first known extradition since Sweden struck a deal with Turkey promising to deal with extraditions "expeditiously and thoroughly".

Sweden extradites first Turk since striking Nato deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block both Sweden and Finland from NATO membership unless they meet several demands, including the extradition of people Ankara considers “terrorists”.

Erdogan accuses the two countries of being havens for Kurdish militants, specifically highlighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The man facing extradition was identified in Swedish court documents as Okan Kale, and was convicted in Turkey of credit card fraud in 2013 and 2016.

He sought asylum in Sweden in 2011 but his request was denied. He was granted refugee status in Italy in 2014. Kale’s name features on a list published in Turkish media of people that Ankara wants extradited from Sweden.

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The justice ministry would however not comment on whether the man was on a list drawn up by Turkey. It noted that Ankara had sought his extradition in 2021 — long before the Stockholm’s application to join the North Atlantic alliance in May.

“This is a regular, routine matter,” justice ministry spokeswoman Angelica Vallgren told AFP. “The extradition request was received last year.”

Kale has been held in Swedish custody since December 2021.

In an agreement signed by Sweden and Finland at a NATO summit in Madrid in late June, the two countries agreed to examine Turkish extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly”.

Erdogan said Sweden had made a “promise” to extradite “73 terrorists”.

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