ANKARA – Senior officials from Sweden and Finland met with Turkish counterparts in Ankara on Wednesday in an attempt to overcome Turkey’s strong objections to Nordic nations’ bids to join NATO.
Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join NATO last week. The move represents one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications Russia’s War in Ukraine and could rewrite Europe’s security map.
Turkey has spoken out against it the countries’ membership in the western military alliance, citing complaints about Sweden – and to a lesser extent Finland – perceived support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other organizations that Turkey sees as a security threat.
The PKK, run as a terrorist organization by several of Turkey’s allies, has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, a conflict that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands.
The Turkish government also accuses Finland and Sweden of imposing arms export restrictions on Turkey and refusing to extradite suspected “terrorists”.
Turkey’s objections have dampened Stockholm’s and Helsinki’s hopes of speedy NATO entry in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and jeopardized the transatlantic alliance’s credibility. All 30 NATO members must agree about the admission of new members.
The Swedish and Finnish delegations met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal. The Swedish delegation was headed by State Secretary Oscar Stenstrom, while Jukka Salovaara, the foreign ministry’s undersecretary, headed the Finnish delegation, Turkish officials said.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said after meeting European Council President Charles Michel in Stockholm that her country wanted to “clarify” allegations circulating during talks with Turkey.
“We don’t send money or weapons to terrorist organizations,” Andersson said
Michel, who is due to travel from Stockholm to Helsinki, said it was “a defining moment for Sweden” and “we fully support your decisions”.
Turkey this week listed five “concrete assurances” it was demanding from Sweden, including “ending political support for terrorism,” “eliminating the source of terrorist financing,” and “ending arms support” to Turkey’s PKK and banned a Syrian Kurdish militia close to her.
The demands also called for the lifting of arms sanctions against Turkey and for global cooperation against terrorism.
Turkey said it had requested the extradition of Kurdish militants and other suspects since 2017 but had not received a positive response from Stockholm. The Turkish government claimed Sweden decided to allocate $376 million to support Kurdish militants in 2023 and provided them with military equipment, including anti-tank weapons and drones.
Sweden has denied providing “financial aid or military support” to Kurdish groups or entities in Syria.
“Sweden is a major humanitarian donor to the Syrian crisis through global allocations to humanitarian actors,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Aftonbladet newspaper.
“Cooperation in north-eastern Syria is mainly through the United Nations and international organizations,” she said. “Sweden does not provide targeted support to Syrian Kurds or the political or military structures in north-eastern Syria, but the population in these areas naturally participates in these aid projects.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told a meeting of the Baltic Sea States Council on Tuesday that Russia had left Sweden and Finland “no choice” but to join NATO.
She said Germany would support the two countries’ membership, calling it “a real asset” for the military alliance.
Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/05/25/sweden-finland-delegations-in-turkey-for-nato-talks/ Delegations from Sweden and Finland in Turkey for NATO talks