While the other NATO countries want to welcome Finland and Sweden into the military alliance with open arms, Turkey opposes it. Sweden is funding the PKK, according to Ankara’s accusation. Now Sweden is approaching Turkey.
It was a foreign policy shift and upheaval for Sweden and Finland when they declared their intention to join NATO. For decades, the two countries remained neutral, even maintaining fairly good foreign policy relations with Russia. They just didn’t want to upset the nuclear power in the East.
The Russian war of aggression in the Ukraine then represented a turning point. It became too delicate for the two Nordic countries to be close to their aggressive neighbors. It was therefore decided to join NATO in order to have the backing and support of the military alliance in the event of a possible attack. A step that is also largely welcomed by the populations of both countries.
Turkey blocked for alleged terror support
Almost all NATO member countries responded positively to the application for membership a few weeks ago, and would like to integrate Sweden and Finland as quickly as possible. If it weren’t for the little word almost. Because one country is standing in the way – and that is Turkey.
Ankara justifies its blockade with the alleged support of Finland and Sweden for “terrorist organizations” such as the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK. However, the objections seem to be aimed more at Sweden than at Finland.
A Swedish embargo on arms sales to Turkey because of the military offensive in Syria is also a thorn in the side of the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Sweden is moving towards Turkey
Now one of the parties to the dispute moves. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Sweden is making two concessions to Turkey. Stoltenberg said so on Monday during a visit to Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
He welcomed that Sweden had already started changing its anti-terror legislation and that the country would ensure that the legal framework for arms exports reflected its future status as a NATO member with new obligations towards allies.
“These are two important steps to address the concerns raised by Turkey,” Stoltenberg said. Andersson assured that the Swedish anti-terror laws have been changed in recent years and will continue to be changed. “We take Turkey’s concerns very seriously, and not least their security concerns in the fight against terrorism,” she said at Stoltenberg’s side, referring to the stricter Swedish anti-terrorism laws that will come into force on July 1. The independent Swedish arms export authority is also ready to review its policy as soon as the country is a member of NATO.
Stoltenberg: Turkey has “legitimate concerns”
Stoltenberg had previously said that Turkey had “legitimate concerns” about terrorism against his country. In a meeting on Sunday with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, he said no other NATO ally had suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey, citing its strategic geographic position with neighbors like Iraq and Syria.
“These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, this is about arms exports,” Stoltenberg said. “We need to address all allies’ security concerns, including Turkey’s concerns about the PKK terrorist group.”
No agreement in sight before the NATO summit
At his meeting with Andersson on Monday, Stoltenberg emphasized that Sweden was in a better position than before after its “historic decision” on the NATO application. Many NATO members have given the country security guarantees. If Sweden were attacked, it was “unthinkable that the NATO allies would not react”. That was made clear to “every potential attacker”.
Stoltenberg originally wanted to allay Turkey’s concerns before the NATO summit in Madrid planned for June 28. During his visit to Finland on Sunday, however, he dashed hopes that this would be possible by then.
But the NATO Secretary General did not want to speculate on exactly when the NATO accessions will take place. The aim is to find a solution as quickly as possible. “I don’t think it will help if I go into details in these negotiations.” The Madrid summit is by no means a deadline.
Sources: DPA, AFP and AP news agencies, SVT, “Dagens Nyheter”