In order for Ankara to lift its veto over Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids, the two Nordic countries first should hand over nearly 130 people Turkey sees as terrorists, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday.
During a meeting with the youth in the southwestern Turkish province of Muğla, the Turkish president answered questions on recent tensions between Ankara and Stockholm over an effigy of Erdoğan hung in the Swedish capital.
Turkish government officials have heavily criticised Sweden since last Thursday after footage went viral on social media that showed an Erdoğan mannequin hung by its feet during a protest outside Stockholm city hall. The government summoned the Swedish ambassador, while the speaker of Turkey’s parliament cancelled a visit by his Swedish counterpart that was scheduled for Tuesday.
Erdoğan in response mentioned a trilateral memorandum Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed last June to open the way for NATO’s Nordic expansion.
“We’ve told them, if you don’t extradite the terrorists you have, then we can’t ratify this in our parliament’,” Erdoğan said referring to the two countries’ NATO bids.
“First of all, they need to extradite nearly 130 terrorists in order for their bids to pass our parliament, (but) unfortunately they have yet to do this,” he added.
Erdoğan said that despite the warnings of the Turkish government, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members kept on organising demonstrations in Sweden’s streets.
“They still think Turkey is the old Turkey. If they do not take a stand against this situation in Sweden, it could make tension in our ties with Sweden grow even more,” he continued.
Erdoğan also added that terrorist organisations linked to Turkey are not only present in Sweden and Finland, but also in other European countries like Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
The Swedish government last week refused to hand over four people sought by Turkey, which Ankara says are members of the Gülen group it accuses of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016, news agency TT reported, without citing sources.
“Turkey sometimes names people that they would like to have extradited from Sweden, and it’s well-known that Swedish legislation on that … is very clear: that courts [make] those decisions, there is no room for changing that,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson -whom Erdoğan referred to as “not a bad man”- said last Wednesday.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in a radio interview on Monday that the Turkish president’s latest comments were likely a reaction to the protest in Stockholm last week. The minister added that Ankara has not sent Helsinki an updated extradition list.