In exchange for accepting Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO, Turkey will demand that the two countries extend their ban against the PKK to include Kurdish organisations in Syria, and that they end their arms embargo against Ankara, three senior Turkish officials told Bloomberg, on condition of anonymity.
As well as designating majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist organisation, Turkey is demanding further crackdowns on Kurds who live in the two Nordic countries.
Ankara claims that there are significant numbers of sympathisers of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the two countries, and demands Stockholm and Helsinki take action against them. The PKK is officially banned in all NATO member states, and is included in the European Union’s list of foreign terrorist organisations.
On principle, Ankara will not accept a NATO expansion to countries that block its weapons deals, one of the Turkish officials told Bloomberg. Finland and Sweden both restricted arms exports to Turkey after Turkey’s 2019 invasion into northern Syria.
Another demand by Turkey is that it is readmitted to the U.S.-led development of fifth-generation stealth fighter jets – F-35s – and is awarded expedited modernisation for its aging fleet of F-16 jets.
The Pentagon removed Turkey from the F-35 programme following Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia, which Washington maintains poses a security threat to NATO. Following sanctions imposed on Turkey as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), these modernisation plans had also been on shaky ground.
According to Kurdish-Swedish journalist, Kurdo Baksi, who sought asylum in Sweden with his family as a teenager in 1980, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a particular issue with Sweden.
“When Kurdish language and books were banned in Turkey, Sweden had Kurdish language magazines, albums, etc,” Baksi said.
Baksi argues that Erdoğan is “trying to come up with issues” as the possibility looms for the president to lose the upcoming 2023 elections.
There are only 150,000 Kurds in Sweden, but the Kurdish diaspora is “beloved” in the country, he said, pointing out that there are six Kurdish-Swedish members of the Swedish parliament. “They want to criminalise Kurds again,” he added.