Categories: US

Turkey demands Sweden hand over journalist accused of being a ‘terrorist’ by President Erdogan

Sweden’s new prime minister on Tuesday pledged to work to counter “terrorism” threats to Turkey in a bid to gain Turkey’s approval for his country’s NATO membership bid.

But he did not say whether he would be willing to extradite an exiled journalist suspected of orchestrating a coup by the Turkish government.

Turkey has accused Sweden – and to a lesser extent Finland – of ignoring its security concerns, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the two countries to crack down on those it considers terrorists.

In particular, Erdogan asked Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to deport exiled journalist and Erdogan critic Bülent Keneş, who the government says was involved in a failed uprising in 2016, back to Turkey, along with supporters of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

“My government was elected just a few weeks ago with the mandate to put public order first,” Kristersson said during a joint press conference with Erdogan yesterday.

“This also includes fighting terrorism and terrorist organizations such as the PKK in Sweden.”

“That is why I want to reassure all Turks: Sweden will fulfill all the commitments Turkey has made in combating the terrorist threat before joining NATO and as a future ally,” he said.

Sweden and Finland have abandoned their longstanding policies of military non-alignment and have applied for NATO membership this year after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, fearing Russian President Vladimir Putin would attack them next.

But Turkey, which joined NATO in 1952, has not yet ratified their accession, which requires unanimous approval from existing alliance members.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands during a press conference after meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey

Sweden’s new prime minister pledged on Tuesday to work to counter ‘terrorism’ threats to Turkey in a bid to gain Turkey’s approval for his country’s NATO membership

Turkey has accused Sweden – and to a lesser extent Finland – of ignoring its security concerns, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the two countries to crack down on those it considers terrorists.

Members of Sweden’s previous Social Democratic government criticized Kristersson’s comments.

Former Justice Secretary Morgan Johansson called the new administration’s handling of the NATO accession process “worrying and resigned”.

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Kurds in Sweden were also critical. Kurdo Baksi, a Kurdish writer who has lived in Sweden for decades, called Billström’s comments disrespectful, given the sacrifices Syrian Kurds have made in the fight against the Islamic State group.

About 100,000 Kurds live in Sweden, while 15,000 Kurds live in Finland.

Erdogan said he welcomed the new Swedish government’s commitment to fulfill obligations agreed between Turkey, Sweden and Finland ahead of a NATO summit in June, but said his country wanted to see “concrete steps”.

Erdogan also described as a “positive step” a decision by Sweden to lift an arms embargo imposed after the 2019 Turkish invasion of northern Syria to fight Kurdish militants.

‘Sweden wants NATO membership for its own security. We want a Sweden that supports our security concerns to be answered,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish leader said at least four people wanted by Turkey have been deported, but would not say how many Ankara wants.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson inspect a military honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Sweden’s new Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, speak to media after their talks at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

Earlier, Turkish parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop said Sweden still has “many steps to take” before the Turkish parliament can approve its NATO membership. Sentop claimed that groups that Ankara considers terrorists were still able to carry out “propaganda, financing and recruitment activities” in Sweden.

Sweden’s new centre-right government takes a tougher line not only against the PKK, but also against the Syrian-Kurdish militia group YPG and its political branch, PYD. Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the PKK.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström told Swedish Radio that there are close ties between the PKK and the YPG/PYD, so Sweden would therefore “keep distance” from Syrian groups so as not to damage relations with Turkey.

In Syria, PYD spokesman Sama Bakdash accused Turkey of supporting “terrorist factions” in Syria.

“We believe that the Swedish government’s bow to Turkish blackmail is contrary to the principles and morals of Swedish society and the humanitarian attitude that characterized Sweden,” she said.

All 30 NATO member states must officially ratify the accession protocol for Finland and Sweden, but the parliaments of Turkey and Hungary have yet to do so.

Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg traveled to Turkey and urged the country to put aside his reservations, insisting that the Nordic neighbors had done enough to allay Ankara’s concerns.

Jacky

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