Türkiye justified in its fight against terrorism: Swedish FM

Türkiye has the right to defend itself against terrorism, Sweden’s foreign minister said Monday regarding Türkiye’s counterterrorism operations in northern Syria and northern Iraq, near the Turkish border.

Türkiye “is a state that has been subjected to terrorist attacks, and all states have the right to defend themselves,” Tobias Billstrom told Sweden’s local newspaper in Paris, where he was attending a donor conference for Moldova to help it deal with the impact of the Ukraine war and soaring food and energy prices.

Early on Sunday, the Claw-Sword Air Operation was conducted by Turkish forces in northern Iraq and northern Syria, both areas used by terrorists as hideouts to plan and mount attacks against Türkiye.

The operation came after last Sunday’s terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Istiklal Street that killed at least six people and left 81 injured. The ministry said the operation was carried out in line with the right of self-defense arising from Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

“It is important to avoid civilian casualties and civilian targets,” Billstrom noted.

However, in previous days, sympathizers of the PKK terrorist organization’s offshoot YPG held a demonstration in Sweden’s capital Stockholm calling for an end to Türkiye’s counterterrorism operations near its border.

Supporters of the terrorist group gathered in Sergels Torg Square, demanding that Sweden impose an arms embargo on Türkiye and cancel the agreement reached this June on Sweden’s prospective NATO membership while carrying posters, rags and other items symbolizing the terrorist outfit and called for Operation Claw-Sword to be stopped.

Because of this reason, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Sweden’s Ambassador to Ankara Staffan Herrstrom to express concerns over the projection of anti-Türkiye terrorist PKK propaganda. The ministry summoned Herrstrom and condemned the incident, diplomatic sources said.

Most recently, the Swedish Parliament passed a constitutional amendment that will make it possible to introduce new laws to “limit freedom of association when it comes to associations that engage in or support terrorism” and enable “wider criminalization of participation in a terrorist organization or a ban against a terrorist organization.” The change will enter into force on Jan. 1.

The ministry demanded that Sweden launch an investigation into the incident. They also demanded that Sweden identify the perpetrators, take precautions and take concrete steps in line with the trilateral agreement signed between Türkiye, Sweden and Finland on their NATO membership bid.

Along with Finland, Sweden applied to join NATO in May in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Türkiye had objected over security concerns related to the banned PKK and other terrorist groups, and over the Nordic states’ arms-export bans. The three sides signed a memorandum in June that lifted Türkiye’s veto and obligated Sweden and Finland to address its remaining concerns. The trilateral agreement that Türkiye, Sweden and Finland signed in June stipulates that Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the YPG and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The deal also said Ankara extends full support to Finland and Sweden against threats to their national security.

The YPG is an extension of the PKK, which launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 and is designated as a terrorist group by Türkiye, the European Union and the United States. Sweden, along with the U.S. and several other NATO countries, has supported the U.S.-backed YPG in the fight against Daesh. Türkiye has vowed to block Sweden’s application if it does not stop. All 30 standing NATO allies need to approve any expansion of the bloc. The application has been approved by 28 of NATO’s 30 countries. The Nordic countries said this week they were optimistic Hungary would also drop its objections.

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