ISTANBUL: Turkey said Wednesday it would seek the extradition of 33 alleged Kurdish militants from Sweden and Finland under a deal to secure Ankara’s support for the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.
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 outlawed Kurdish militants and to quickly 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 European Union and Washington both recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation 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 the Islamic State group.
Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and asked to join the US-led alliance in May.
– ‘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 organisation,” says the agreement.
“Finland and Sweden commit to prevent activities of the PKK and all other terrorist organisations and their extensions, as well as activities by individuals… linked to these terrorist organisations.”
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 officials 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.