Turkey seeks extraditions from Finland, Sweden under NATO deal

1. Turkey
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens during a bilateral meeting with the US President on the sidelines of the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 29, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey said Wednesday it would seek the extradition of 33 alleged Kurdish militants and coup plot suspects from Sweden and Finland under a deal to secure Ankara’s support for the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.اضافة اعلان

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped weeks of resistance to the two countries’ NATO ambitions at crunch talks held on the eve of an alliance summit Wednesday focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan emerged from the meeting declaring victory after securing a 10-point agreement under which the two countries vowed to join Turkey’s fight against banned Kurdish militants and to swiftly extradite suspects.

Turkey put the deal to the immediate test by announcing that it would seek the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden.

“We will seek the extradition of terrorists from the relevant countries within the framework of the new agreement,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said in a statement.

“We ask them to fulfil their promises.”

The unnamed suspects were identified as being members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a group led by a US-based Muslim preacher that Erdogan blames for a failed 2016 coup attempt.

The EU and Washington both recognize the PKK as a “terrorist” organization because of the brutal tactics it employed during a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

But the agreement also stipulates that Sweden and Finland vow to “not provide support” to the YPG — a PKK offshoot in Syria that played an instrumental role in the US-led alliance against Daesh.

Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and were formally invited into the alliance at Wednesday’s summit in Madrid.

‘Got what it wanted’

Their applications appeared to be headed for swift approval until Erdogan stepped in.

The Turkish leader accused Finland and particularly Sweden of providing a haven to Kurdish fighters and financing terror.

Erdogan also wanted the two countries to lift embargoes on weapons deliveries they imposed in response to Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.

The memorandum appears to address many of Erdogan’s concerns.

It says Finland and Sweden pledge to “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly”.

“Finland and Sweden confirm that the PKK is a proscribed terrorist organization,” says the agreement.

“Finland and Sweden commit to prevent activities of the PKK and all other terrorist organizations and their extensions, as well as activities by individuals ... linked to these terrorist organizations.”

Erdogan’s office hailed the agreement as a full victory.

“Turkey got what it wanted,” his office declared in a statement.

Erdogan also secured the promise of a long-sought meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO talks.

A US official told reporters that Biden was “keen” to improve relations with Turkey after a difficult spell caused in part by Turkey’s crackdown on human rights.

‘Loose and aggressive’

Most of Turkey’s demands and past negotiations have involved Sweden because of its more robust ties with the Kurdish diaspora.

Sweden keeps no official ethnicity statistics but is believed to have 100,000 Kurds living in the nation of 10 million people.

Stockholm recognized the PKK as a “terrorist” organization in the 1980s but has adopted a more supportive stance toward the YPG.

Pro-government Turkish media were outraged by two meetings Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde held last year with Ilham Ahmad — the leader of the political wing of the YPG-led forces that expelled Daesh from a large swathe of Syria.

Linde called her two meetings “good” and “fruitful” on Twitter.

It was not immediately apparent whose extradition Turkey sought.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told reporters that his country has “not been presented with any list so far, at least as far as I know”.

But the Brookings Institution warned that problems may arise from Turkey’s “loose and often aggressive framing” of the term “terrorist”.

“The complication arises from a definition of terrorism in Turkish law that goes beyond criminalizing participation in violent acts and infringes on basic freedom of speech,” the US-based institute said in a report.

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