Military & intelligence

Swedish PM Visits Turkey in Charm Offensive Over NATO Membership

Ulf Kristersson, lesder of the center-right party Moderates, makes his way to a press meeting in the Riksdag, Stockholm, Wednesday Nov. 14, 2018Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids mark a formal end to decades of non-alignment and have been met with staunch resistance from Ankara. Today, both Sweden and Finland are in lively talks with Turkey to allay its concerns over their alleged support for Kurdish organizations Turkey considers to be terrorist, going to great lengths to keep it satisfied.Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has visited the Turkish capital, Ankara, and spoken with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Nordic country’s bid to join NATO which at present is being blocked by Turkey.Kristersson, leader of the recently elected ruling Moderate Party, stressed that Sweden’s change of government doesn’t affect the country’s NATO process and that he is personally ready to accomplish it. Among other things, he made it clear that Sweden intends to follow the agreement that was concluded between Turkey, Sweden and fellow Nordic nation and NATO candidate Finland in June. According to the agreement, Sweden and Finland will support Turkey in its fight against terrorism and groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is on Turkey’s, the EU’s and the US’ terrorist list.

“I want to assure all Turks that Sweden will live up to the obligations that we have agreed on in the fight against the terrorist threat. Our message is clear: Sweden understands that Turkey has fought a bloody battle against PKK terrorists,” Ulf Kristersson said at a press conference, as quoted by the Scandinavian media. “After all, I have only been prime minister for three weeks, yet I think it is important to send a signal to Turkey that I value this process highly,” Kristersson added.

However, Sweden may have to go to greater lengths than originally thought to keep Ankara satisfied.“We want to see that Sweden supports Turkey’s security interests,” President Erdogan said at the same conference. “At our meeting, we openly expressed our expectations for concrete actions in relation to our agreement,” he added.In May, several months after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO, citing a change in their security environment. However, Turkey – a NATO member whose assent is needed for their application to succeed – was unimpressed, accusing both countries, especially Sweden, of harboring militant Kurds and assisting terrorists. As well as calls to crack down on terrorism generally, Turkey demanded that several people be extradited from Sweden, which sent a ripple across the country’s political circles and liberal press sparking accusations of lack of integrity.Amineh Kakabaveh, a Swedish left-wing politician and avowed feminist who was a Kurdish guerrilla soldier before she fled to Sweden in 1991, is critical of the country’s NATO aspirations and has accused the government of running errands for Turkey.

“Sweden now strips completely naked for Erdogan and agrees to everything without even thinking about the consequences,” Kakabaveh told Swedish media, predicting that Turkey will make further demands. She called the reversal of the arms embargo “terrible hypocrisy” and a “great betrayal of our Swedish principles and our solidarity” and added that she was “ashamed of being Swedish”, adding that the country’s government is “kneeling to Erdogan”.

As a token of their readiness to enter NATO – even at the cost of sacrificing principles – Sweden and Finland earlier this year eagerly lifted the ban on arms exports to Turkey which they had introduced previously over Ankara’s engagement in Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, a moved praised by Erdogan as a “step in the right direction”.MilitarySwedish Parties Split Over NATO Keeping Nuclear Arms on Country’s Soil2 November, 06:35 GMTOver the weekend, the Swedish government also announced that it was distancing itself from the YPG and PYD – Kurdish organizations it had previously supported. Foreign Minister Tobias Billström called the two organizations “dubious” and said that their ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were “too close”. This move was also praised by Ankara.Kristersson and Erdogan will meet in Stockholm in a month’s time although the precise date of the meeting has not yet been revealed.Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids mark a formal end to decades of non-alignment, which in recent years existed in name only, as both countries inched increasingly closer to the US-led bloc, taking part in joint drills and overseas operations and maintaining a lively arms cooperation.Previously, both countries broke yet another principle not to send arms to countries in conflict by jumping on the Ukraine bandwagon and announcing massive weapons assistance to Kiev.

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