Erdogan: Nordic NATO bid could still be rejected if wishes not kept

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a NATO summit briefing in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Manu Fernandez/AP)

ISTANBUL — Just two days after agreeing to drop objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, Turkey’s leader warned on Thursday that Ankara could still block the process if the two countries do not respond fully to his expectations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the close of the alliance summit in Madrid that the 10-article deal with the Nordic pair was a victory for Ankara and addressed all of its “sensitivities”.

He particularly highlighted the fulfillment of Turkey’s request to Sweden and Finland to extradite terrorist suspects with links to banned Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed coup. in 2016 in Turkey.

But Erdogan added that if the two Nordic states go back on their promises, the Turkish parliament could refuse to ratify the agreement reached on Tuesday. Membership in NATO must be formally approved by all 30 member states, which gives everyone a right to block.

“This business won’t work if we don’t pass it in our parliament,” Erdogan said. “First, Sweden and Finland have to do their homework and those are already in the text. … But if they don’t do it, then of course there’s no way we’re sending it to our parliament. .”

Erdogan claimed that Sweden had promised to extradite 73 ‘terrorists’ to Turkey and to crack down on fundraising and recruitment activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK – listed as a terrorist group by the US and the EU. European Union – and related groups. Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as an extension of the PKK.

The text of the memorandum does not set a precise number of extraditions. It states that Finland and Sweden will process Turkey’s “pending deportation or extradition requests of suspected terrorists expeditiously and thoroughly, taking into account information, evidence and intelligence provided” by Turkey in accordance to the European Convention on Extradition.

On Wednesday, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said the Swedish and Finnish Justice Ministries had files from Turkey on 33 people with alleged links to the PKK and the network of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen based in the United States. United States.

Journalists repeatedly pressed Erdogan on Thursday about extraditions and whether Sweden had indeed promised the number he cited. He said the number of extradition requests previously stood at 60 but had been updated to 73.

“Of course, what we understand is important from our meetings and discussions,” Erdogan said. “Sweden promised to give us these 73 people with this text. They can or not, we will follow that through the text and we will make our decision.”

There was no immediate response to requests for comment from the Swedish delegation to the Madrid summit.

The Swedish government has sought to allay concerns that the deal would lead to extraditions to Turkey without due process.

“I know some people are worried that we’re starting to chase people away and extradite them, and I think it’s important to say that we always follow Swedish laws and international conventions, and we never extradite citizens. Swedish,” said the Swede. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told public broadcaster SVT on Wednesday.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto pointed out that Helsinki pointed out that the memorandum does not list the names of individuals.

“In the event of extradition, we will respect our own legislation and international agreements. Ultimately, extradition is a legal discretion that politicians have no right to influence,” Niinisto said.

With the signing of the joint memorandum, NATO moved forward in inviting the Nordic countries to the military alliance which seeks to widen and strengthen in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The most time-consuming part of NATO membership is the ratification of the candidate membership protocols by the 30 member countries of the alliance. It’s a process that involves national parliaments — and could take months.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country would start the process of ratifying Sweden and Finland’s planned NATO membership this week and conclude it “very quickly”.

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Aritz Parra in Madrid and Karl Ritter in Berlin contributed to this.

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