Sweden shirks Türkiye’s demands amid NATO membership bid

Sweden drew the ire of Türkiye again when a group of supporters of the PKK terrorist group hung an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Stockholm last Thursday. The Nordic country, along with Finland, appeared eager earlier to assuage Türkiye’s concerns over its tolerance of terrorist groups, including the PKK and the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ).

But as Türkiye approaches general elections, Stockholm has demonstrated that it is dragging its feet on concrete action against the terrorist groups.

Ankara sees the latest demonstration by PKK supporters as a concrete display of Sweden’s failure to implement steps required under the tripartite memorandum signed with Finland and Türkiye during a NATO summit in Madrid. The message says one of NATO’s key elements is unwavering solidarity and cooperation in the fight against terrorism, “which constitutes a direct threat to the national security of allies.” The latest incident shows both countries are awaiting the Turkish elections scheduled for June, though Erdoğan has signaled the polls could be rescheduled to an earlier date.

Sweden’s top court was recently behind a controversial ruling that rejected the extradition of Bülent Keneş, a prominent figure of FETÖ wanted by Türkiye. Still, questions remain about whether he will be subject to a retrial after a strict counterterrorism law came into force earlier this month. In addition, further constitutional amendments for improving counterterrorism efforts in Sweden are expected to be implemented on July 1. On the other hand, one day after the PKK supporters’ rally, Swedish media announced that the government had approved a December ruling by a top court against the extradition of four FETÖ fugitives to Türkiye. Stockholm approved the decision on Dec. 22, 2022. One of four names was Murat Çetiner, a FETÖ suspect, who, like Keneş, was sheltered by Sweden, despite terrorism charges against him by Türkiye. Çetiner has told a Swedish broadcaster that he was pleased with the decision.

In light of these developments, a trilateral meeting will be held between Türkiye, Sweden and Finland soon. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg proposed holding the meeting in Brussels, according to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Çavuşoğlu said Ankara had accepted the proposal.

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