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Minister seeks to distance Sweden from Kurdish groups

Sweden's foreign minister on Saturday sought to distance Stockholm from the Kurdish YPG militia, days before the Scandinavian country's prime minister is to visit Ankara hoping to secure support for its NATO bid.

Minister seeks to distance Sweden from Kurdish groups
Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billstrom. Photo: Jonathan NACKSTRAND/AFP

Sweden’s foreign minister on Saturday sought to distance Stockholm from the Kurdish YPG militia, days before the Scandinavian country’s prime minister is to visit Ankara hoping to secure support for its NATO bid.

“I think it is important that there is a distance to this organisation from the Swedish side”, Tobias Billstrom told broadcaster Sveriges Radio after he was asked about the YPG’s track record.”We think there are doubts and problems regarding those who are damaging our relationship with Turkey,” he said.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden dropped a decades-long policy of military non-alignment to seek NATO membership in May.

But Turkey has held back on ratifying their applications — focusing especially on Stockholm — for what it describes as leniency towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other Kurdish groups. 

The PKK has for many years staged an insurgency against the Turkish state which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. It is designated as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and most of its Western allies.But the group’s Syrian offshoot, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), has been an important player in the US-led international alliance against the Islamic State group in Syria.

While Sweden has in the past expressed support for the YPG and its political arm the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the country’s new government appears to be changing that stance.

“There is too close a link between these organisations and the PKK, which is a terrorist organisation listed by the EU,” Billstrom said.

READ ALSO: Turkey warns Finland, Sweden must ‘take steps’ before NATO approval

Turkey will not formally approve Finland and Sweden’s membership of NATO until the two countries take the necessary “steps”, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg on Friday.

All 30 NATO member states except Turkey and Hungary have ratified the accession of Sweden and Finland.

New Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will visit Ankara on Tuesday to meet with Erdogan in a trip that Stockholm hopes will lead to Turkey’s approval.

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NATO

Hungary to approve Finland and Sweden Nato accession next year: PM

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Thursday that parliament would approve Finland and Sweden's accession to Nato next year, with only Hungary and Turkey left to green-light their application.

Hungary to approve Finland and Sweden Nato accession next year: PM

“As we have already informed Sweden and Finland, Hungary supports the Nato membership of these two countries. It will be on the agenda of the first session of parliament” next year, Orbán told reporters after meeting regional counterparts in Slovakia.

The first session of parliament next year is scheduled to begin in February. All 30 Nato member states except Hungary and Turkey have ratified the accession of Sweden and Finland, which dropped decades of military non-alignment with bids to join Nato after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

New members to the Nato alliance require unanimous approval. Hungary’s ruling party has repeatedly rejected scheduling a vote in parliament on the issue though the government insists it backs the two Nordic nation’s accession to Nato.

Earlier this month, Orbán’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, said Hungary had to pass anti-corruption reforms, closely watched by Brussels, before parliament could turn to the Nato issue.

EU member Hungary is in talks with Brussels to unlock billions of euros in EU funding currently held over corruption concerns.

The Hungarian opposition has accused Orbán’s party of dragging its feet by refusing to put the issue on parliament’s agenda for a vote.

The Socialist Party has called it “incomprehensible and unjustified”, while the Momentum party has accused the government of “blackmailing” the European Union.

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