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Turkey publishes demands for backing Sweden’s Nato membership

Turkey’s government has demanded "concrete assurances" that Sweden will stop backing groups it regards as terrorist, as it lays out its price for backing Swedish Nato membership.

Turkey publishes demands for backing Sweden's Nato membership
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects a military honour guard during a ceremony marking the docking of a submarine, in Kocaeli, Turkey, Monday, May 23, 2022. Photo: Turkish Presidency/AP

“Sweden, which has applied for membership, is expected to take principled steps and provide concrete assurances regarding Turkey’s security concerns,” the Turkish government wrote in a statement, published in English on its website. “Under the collective security principle of Nato, Turkey expects concrete assurances from Sweden, which supports terrorist organisations.” 

The statement refers to the “PKK/PYD”, conflating the PYD, the party which runs the Kurdish region in northern Syria, with the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organisation by Sweden, as well as by the EU and the US.

It also highlights the $367m Sweden has promised in support of the PYD, accuses Sweden of supplying military equipment, particularly anti-tanks and drones, to Kurdish forces in northern Syria, and criticises the arms embargo Sweden imposed on Turkey in 2019. 

READ ALSO: Could Turkey block Sweden from Nato membership?

“Turkey expects support from all Nato member states in its legitimate rights based on international law and in its fight against terrorism for decades,” the statement reads. “The embargo practices are against the spirit of the alliance.”

Finally, the statement reiterates a call made in 2017 for Sweden to extradite “terrorists” linked to PKK/PYD and FETO (Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation), the Turkish government’s designation for the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government’s directorate of communications published a version of the demands on social media, laid out as five bullet points, and translated into eleven languages, including Russian. 

The Turkish government posted a five-point statement of its stance on Nato membership in eleven languages on social media. Photo: Turkish government

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SWEDEN AND TURKEY

How have Sweden’s Kurds reacted to the Turkey Nato deal?

Sweden's deal with Turkey has shocked the country's large Kurdish population, with some seeing it as a betrayal, but most confident that they, themselves are not at risk.

How have Sweden's Kurds reacted to the Turkey Nato deal?

Shocked 

The Left party MP Yekbun Alp, told DN on Wednesday that she was “still shocked” by what had been in the agreement.

“I’ve been deluged with calls since 3am last night from Kurds who are worried about what this might mean,” she said. “Many people have been asking me if they are on the list.” 

Shiyar Ali, the representative in Sweden of the PYD-led government of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, told DN that his first thought on reading the agreement was that Sweden was “bowing down before a dictator”. 

“I think of all the journalists and elected MPs who are now sitting imprisoned in Turkey, where there’s no respect for human rights,” he said. “Turkey is an occupying power in Syria, so making this agreement with Erdogan does not feel right. It feels worrying.”

Worrying vagueness 

Ali said that the agreement was worryingly vague on how the extraditions from Sweden, and intelligence coordination between the two countries would work. 

“Who is a terrorist? Who decides? Which laws and rules apply?” he complained. “That part of the agreement is extremely unclear. There are no details, and that makes one worried.” 

He pointed out that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tended to describe almost any of his political opponents, particularly those from a Kurdish background as “terrorists”.  “Where does the border lie. Erdogan calls everyone terrorists,” he said. 

Yekbun Alp pointed out that she was one of the five Swedish Kurds accused by name in the Turkiye Gazetesi newspaper for cooperating with the PKK, a group that Sweden, as well as Turkey classes as a terrorist organisation. 

“In my work, I have stood up for democracy and human rights and been a voice for the Kurdish people,” she said. “And that makes Turkey uncomfortable, so they call me a terrorist, so if that’s what they mean by terrorist, then I’m proud of it. But I’ve never supported violence or terrorism. I believe in peaceful dialogue.” 

The journalist Levent Kenez said he was not surprised that he had been accused by Turkey as being a terrorist. 

“Erdogan describes all opposition as terrorists,” he said. 

Most do not fear being extradited 
 
Neither Ali nor Alp, nor the Turkish dissidents and journalists who have been subjected to extradition requests from Turkey, seemed to fear that Sweden would end up sending them to Turkey. 
 
Ali told TT that the risk was “extremely minimal” that he would be hit by by an extradition request under the agreement, but he said that it had anyway returned the feeling of insecurity he had before he left Syria to come to Sweden 32 years ago. “I’ve got that feeling again, and I think that is unpleasant.” 
 
Ragip Zarakolu, a Turkish human rights activist and publisher living in Sweden, told SVT that the agreement should be seen as “a kind of harassment” of dissident Turks and Kurds, aimed at “damaging the peaceful life of dissidents who live outside of Turkey”. 
 
Kenez, whose extradition Sweden’s Supreme Court turned down last year, told SVT that he did not see Sweden as more likely to extradite him now. “I’m a journalist,” he said. “And that’s not a crime.”  
 
 
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