Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on Tuesday and promised to comply with Turkish demands including extraditing activists, in return for the approval of Sweden’s NATO membership bid.
Ankara has blocked applications by Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, demanding that they first extradite individuals whom Turkey alleges to have terrorist links, and lift arms embargoes imposed after the Turkish incursion into Syrian territories in 2019.
Among the Swedish residents marked for extradition are Kurdish activists allegedly affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and journalists that Turkey says are members of the Gülen religious movement, a shadowy group that is blamed for the 2016 coup attempt.
“Sweden will live up to all the obligations made to Turkey in countering the terrorist threat,” Kristersson said, describing Tuesday’s meeting as “very productive”.
Erdoğan also expressed satisfaction during the press conference held after the meeting, stating that he hoped to see concrete steps regarding the provisions agreed with Kristersson by the end of November.
The right-wing Swedish Prime Minister, who came to power with the elections on 11 September, stated that his government mandated to put law and order first and said, “And this includes terrorist organisations, like the PKK.”
Swedish academic Paul T. Levin, director of the Turkish Studies programme at Stockholm University, described Sweden’s severing of ties with the Kurds as a “pyrrhic win” for Turkey, during a podcast conversation with Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman.
Remarking that Sweden’s foreign policy had changed along with the new right-wing government elected in the last Swedish elections, Levin called the concessions a diplomatic gain for Turkey, but said Ankara’s behaviour had lost it many friends in Sweden.
Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum at the NATO summit held in the Spanish capital Madrid on 28 June. While the two Nordic states accepted a number of demands from Turkey, Turkey also agreed to support the invitation of the two countries to become members of NATO.
Since then, Sweden has lifted its arms embargo against Turkey and extradited four political dissidents.
The Swedish government also announced its decision to distance itself from Kurdish fighters in northern Syria last week, a day after Erdoğan reiterated that Ankara would not approve Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership unless the countries took the necessary steps.