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As Finland Gets Closer to NATO, Sweden Has Yet to Dispel Turkey’s Concerns

On March 9, the trilateral talks between Turkey, Sweden, and Finland restarted in Brussels. Following the talks, Turkey acknowledged that Sweden and Finland have taken some steps to meet Ankara’s concerns over the activities of terrorist groups in their countries.

On January 21, Turkey had suspended talks as part of the memorandum to ease Finland and Sweden’s accession process until the two countries addressed Turkey’s concerns.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year to safeguard themselves against possible Russian acts of aggression as such concerns became manifest with the Russia-Ukraine war. Hungary and Turkey are the only NATO members yet to ratify their bids.

In addition to the free movements and activities of terrorist organizations in Sweden and Finland, both countries also impose an arms embargo on the Turkish military industry.

While Turkey has always firmly supported NATO’s open-door policy, it also expects its key concerns to be addressed in the spirit of the alliance.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by the EU, the U.S., the UK, and Turkey, and for four decades has waged a war against Turkey.

A tougher stance?

Ankara also wants Helsinki and Stockholm to take a tougher stance against the FETO terrorist organization, which staged a foiled coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

At the moment, Turkey considers Sweden, in particular, too hesitant and lenient in banning the PKK’s fundraising and other activities.

Ibrahim Kalin, President Erdoğan’s spokesperson, said that the meeting on March 9 was held in a positive climate, and that further steps needed to be taken by Finland and Sweden.

“The Vilnius summit in July is presented as a deadline for us. Our security concerns are at stake. Ratification of their bids depends on the steps the Nordic countries will take,” he said.

The suspension came after the far-right Danish politician Rasmus Paludan, an outspoken Islamophobe, burned a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm despite Turkey’s persistent warnings to Swedish authorities to prevent it.

Sweden’s chief negotiator for the talks, Oscar Stenström, said that Sweden had met its obligations and that it takes Turkey’s concerns over the PKK militants in Sweden seriously. The Swedish government introduced a new anti-terrorism bill to parliament on March 9.

The new anti-terror law, which the government hoped would come into force on June 1, 2023, was poised to grant authorities greater power to detain and prosecute individuals who back terrorist organizations, through financing or other means. Traveling abroad to assist a terrorist organization will also be punished if the law takes effect.

The Swedish Parliament was scheduled to ratify the new anti-terror law on March 9, but it was postponed to May 3.

Pass to Finland but not Sweden

On January 29, Turkish President Erdoğan said Turkey might approach Finland’s bid differently than Sweden’s.

Although the two countries initially said they would join NATO together, on March 14, the Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that the ratifications of the two countries might be at different times and that his country is prepared for such a development.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö traveled to Turkey on March 16-17 for a solidarity visit to the earthquake-affected areas and to discuss his country’s NATO bid.

Having visited the earthquake-ridden areas, he met President Erdoğan in Ankara.

On Wednesday, March 22, during Niinistö’s visit, Erdoğan told reporters that they would fulfill their pledge to Finland. Even though he did not give further details, it is interpreted as greenlighting Finland’s NATO bid.

Turkish parliament

Also on Wednesday, two Turkish officials told Reuters that the Turkish Parliament is likely to ratify Finland’s NATO bid in mid-April before the Parliament closes prior to the elections on May 14.

Until recently, Hungary has also delayed Helsinki’s and Stockholm’s NATO bids.

In a letter published on Tuesday, March 14, the Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén requested that a parliamentary session scheduled for March 20 to vote on Finland and Sweden’s membership be postponed to a week later.

Nevertheless, Turkey and Hungary declared that they will ratify Finland’s application for NATO membership.

“We have decided to start the protocol of Finland’s accession to NATO in our parliament,” Erdoğan said during a press conference in Istanbul alongside his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö.

Speaking on Sweden’s application, Erdoğan said Turkey cannot greenlight Sweden’s bid as Stockholm has refused to extradite 120 suspected terrorists.

At a joint press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said, “We believe that we are ready for ratification, but we respect that only Turkey can make Turkey’s decisions.”

Source : Politics Today