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10th Dec 2022

Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato

  • Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg (c) with Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde and Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto (Photo: nato.int)
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Turkey has let Sweden advance toward Nato despite an escalating dispute about extraditions and arms sales.

The Turkish ambassador to the alliance joined the other 29 member states in signing Sweden and Finland's "accession protocols" at Nato HQ in Brussels on Tuesday (6 July).

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It was a happy scene — Nato filmed diplomats chatting and laughing; Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warmly greeted Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde and Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto, whom they both called by his first name in their public remarks.

"With 32 nations around the table, we'll be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the worst security crisis in decades," Stoltenberg said.

Tuesday's signatures mean Sweden and Finland can take part, but not vote, in almost all Nato meetings as official "invitees".

The Nordic accession deals must still be ratified by all 30 of Nato's national parliaments before they fully join, gaining the protection of its mutual defence pact.

But while going along with Tuesday's formalities at Nato's HQ in Brussels, Ankara has been warning it will block ratification unless Sweden complies with its demands to extradite Kurdish "terrorist" suspects.

The dispute escalated further the same day when Swedish news agency TT said a Swedish MP of Kurdish origin, Amineh Kakabave, had filed a case against any such move at Sweden's Constitutional Commission.

Kakabave has asked the court to examine the legality of a Turkish-Swedish-Finnish memo on the Kurds and on arms exports to Turkey, which the three countries signed at last week's Nato summit in Madrid, in a US-lubricated deal of geopolitical importance.

"We did what we always do in Nato. We found common ground," Stoltenberg said on Tuesday, recalling the summit deal.

Tuesday's signing of the accession protocols was a "confirmation" of Nato's unanimous support for Nordic expansion, Linde also said.

"We look forward to a swift ratification process," Finland's Haavisto said. He described "terrorism" as being "a serious threat to us all," in a nod to Turkey's concerns.

Finland has pledged to go into Nato hand-in-hand with Sweden, its neighbour and friend.

Turkey had initially spoken of 33 Kurdish suspects whom it wanted to get its hands on from Sweden.

But last week Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan escalated that figure to 73.

"They have to comply with this document [the Nato summit memo], if they don't then we won't allow them to join Nato," Erdoğan's foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said Monday on Turkish TV.

The memo does not give names or numbers of suspects to be extradited, Sweden has appointed out.

At the same time as rattling its veto powers, Turkey has showcased its value to Nato by impounding a Russian-flagged ship suspected of smuggling stolen Ukrainian grain.

If that was proved to be the case, the grain would be confiscated and sold for the benefit of Ukraine, İlnur Çevik, a senior aide to Erdoğan, told BBC radio on Tuesday.

"There's a dire need for grain and it will help the world market, so Turkey is trying to do its share to help ease this pain," he said.

"Turkey has the second-largest military force in Nato, so Turkey can more than handle this situation," Çevik added, when asked if Nato should send more warships to the region.

"At the moment I don't think there's a need for Nato ships and to further antagonise the Russians," Çevik said.

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