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

ISTANBUL (AP) – Just two days after agreeing to lift deal-breaking objections to Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, the Turkish leader warned on Thursday that Ankara could still block the process if the two countries don’t fully comply. meet his expectations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the conclusion 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”.

In particular, he stressed compliance with Turkey’s demand for Sweden and Finland to extradite terror suspects associated with banned Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

But Erdogan added that if the two Nordic states fail to keep their promises, the Turkish parliament could refuse to ratify the deal reached on Tuesday. Accession to NATO must be formally approved by all 30 member states, which gives each a blocking right.

“This case will not work if we do not approve it in our parliament,” Erdogan said. “Firstly, Sweden and Finland have to fulfill their duties and they are already in the text. … But if they don’t comply, then of course we can’t send it to our parliament.”

Erdogan alleged that Sweden had promised to extradite 73 “terrorists” to Turkey and to crack down on the funding and recruitment activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK – which has been classified as a terrorist group by the US and the European Union – and affiliated groups . Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as an extension of the PKK.

The text of the memorandum does not set a specific number of renditions. It says that Finland and Sweden will deal promptly and thoroughly with “pending deportation or extradition requests of terrorist suspects, taking into account information, evidence and intelligence provided by Turkey” in accordance with the European Convention on Extradition.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Wednesday that the justice ministries of Sweden and Finland have files from Turkey of 33 people with alleged links to the PKK and the network of US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Journalists on Thursday repeatedly urged Erdogan about the renditions and whether Sweden had actually promised the number he mentioned. He said the number of extradition requests was previously at 60, but has been upgraded to 73.

“Of course what we understand is important from our meetings and conversations,” Erdogan said. “Sweden promised us to give these 73 people with this text. Whether they are 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 at the Madrid summit.

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

“I know there are people who are concerned that we are going to hunt people and extradite them, and I think it’s important to say that we always follow Swedish laws and international conventions, and we never extradite Swedish citizens, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told the public broadcaster SVT on Wednesday.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto emphasized that Helsinki pointed out that the memorandum does not mention any person’s names.

“In the case of renditions, we will abide by our own legislation and international agreements. Ultimately, extradition is a legal discretion over which politicians have no influence,” Niinisto said.

With the signing of the joint memorandum, NATO continued to invite the Scandinavian countries to the military alliance that aims to expand and strengthen in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The most time-consuming part of gaining NATO membership is the ratification of the candidates’ accession protocols by the alliance’s 30 member states. It is a process involving national parliaments – and it can take months.

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

Aritz Parra in Madrid and Karl Ritter in Berlin contributed.

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