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NATO

Swedish and Turkish foreign ministers to meet to discuss Nato

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that he would meet with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts to discuss their bid to join Nato on the margins of the alliance's meeting in Bucharest on Tuesday.

Swedish and Turkish foreign ministers to meet to discuss Nato
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to the media during a press conferences with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in Istanbul on November 3rd. Photo: AFP

“We will come together with Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers tomorrow in Bucharest under a trilateral format,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the private NTV broadcaster.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic nations of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants it deems “terrorists” and held back on ratifying their Nato membership despite an agreement in June.

“The process is progressing positively, but there are still steps to be taken,” Cavusoglu said. “In fact, Sweden is the country that needs to take more steps.”

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and scrambled to become Nato members in May, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

New Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson visited Ankara early this month to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Stockholm hoped to secure Turkey’s approval.

Ahead of that trip, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, who met with Cavusoglu and Erdogan in Istanbul, said both countries were committed to working with Turkey to address its concerns, adding it is time to welcome them.

Among all Nato members, only Hungary and Turkey are left to green-light their application.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last week parliament would approve Finland and Sweden’s accession to Nato next year.

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TERRORISM

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

Sweden's government has submitted a new terror bill which could help convince Turkey that the country is acting to crack down on Swedish residents active in the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

The new proposal, titled “a special penalty provision for participation in a terrorist organisation”, will make participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation in any way that “promotes, strengthens or supports” the organisation punishable with up to four years in prison. 

“This is a wider criminalisation that takes aim at a slew of activities within a terrorist organisation that don’t need to be concretely connected to a specific terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told a press conference.

“Sweden has an increased terrorist threat which must be taken very seriously,” he continued. “Now the government is putting forward a legislative proposal which means that both participation in and financing of participation in terrorist organisations will be punishable.” 

Actions such as handling equipment, organising camps or locations for meetings, cooking or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organisations would be criminalised under the new law, which Strömmer stressed was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation”.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the proposed bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

The proposal will now go to Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which judged a previous proposal to ban membership of a terror organisation, brought in in the wake the 2017 Stockholm terror attack, as in conflict with Sweden’s constitution right to free association. 

Under the proposal, serious cases of the new crime will be punishable by up to eight years in prison, while those found guilty of holding a leadership position in a terror organisation could be jailed for 18 years or even for life. 

The proposal criminalises all forms of support for terror organisations, regardless of whether it is financial or other ways of taking part in it, promoting it and strengthening it. 

Strömmer noted that “partaking in a demonstration or at a meeting will not in itself be punishable”, adding that said flag-waving in itself would not be criminalised but such activities could potentially be used as evidence in court.

The government hopes to be able to submit the proposal to parliament on March 7th, and for it to come into force by June 1st. 

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