EXCLUSIVE In letter, Sweden lists ‘concrete actions’ on Turkey’s concerns over NATO bid

  • Sweden says it has stepped up its efforts against Kurdish militants
  • Says it will process pending extradition requests
  • Letter intended to demonstrate Sweden’s commitment to commitments
  • Sweden asked to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine
  • Turkey initially vetoed, accused Sweden of harboring militants

ISTANBUL, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Sweden has taken “concrete steps” to address Turkey’s concerns over its NATO bid, including stepping up counter-terrorism efforts against Kurdish militants, Stockholm said. to Ankara in a letter dated October 6 and seen by Reuters. .

The two-page letter gives 14 examples of steps Sweden has taken to show that it is “fully committed to the implementation” of a memorandum he signed with Turkey and Finland in June, leading NATO member Turkey to lift its veto on their candidacies for the transatlantic security alliance.

Sweden and Finland launched their candidacy to join NATO in May in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but faced objections from Turkey, which accuses the two Nordic countries of harboring this whom she says are militants of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other groups.

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Stockholm and Helsinki deny harboring terrorists but have pledged to cooperate with Ankara to fully address its security concerns and lift arms embargoes. Yet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said as recently as October 6 that his demands had yet to be met.

In its letter to Turkey, Sweden said “concrete steps have been taken on all essential elements of the trilateral agreement”.

Sweden’s security and counterterrorism police, Sapo, “intensified its work against the PKK” and made a “high-level visit” to Turkey in September for meetings with Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency, indicates the letter.

Sweden’s foreign ministry and the communication arm of Erdogan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Swedish officials delivered the previously unreported letter to Erdogan’s office and the Foreign Ministry over the weekend, a source familiar with the matter said, requesting anonymity due to its sensitivity.

The letter was aimed at reassuring Turkey about Sweden’s efforts in the ongoing bilateral talks and encouraging the final approval of the NATO membership bid, the source added.

According to the letter, Swedish authorities “have carried out further analyzes of the role of the PKK in threats to Sweden’s national security and in organized crime (and) this should lead to concrete results”.

The PKK, which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. As part of the June memorandum talks, Turkey requested the extradition of 73 people from Sweden and a dozen others from Finland, where it is involved with other groups.

The letter says that Stockholm extradited a Turkish citizen on August 31 at the request of Ankara, following an August 11 decision, and that a total of four extraditions have been made to Turkey since 2019.

The extraditions were discussed by a Swedish delegation visiting Ankara in early October, according to the letter.

“Sweden is committed to promptly and thoroughly processing pending extradition requests for suspected terrorists,” taking into account Turkish intelligence and in accordance with Swedish law and the European Convention on Extradition, the letter states. .

Turkey will continue consultations with Sweden and Finland “to pursue the full implementation of the memorandum”, Turkish diplomatic sources told Reuters. However, measures “must be taken… (in) the fight against terrorism, the prevention and suppression of incitement to terrorism, the improvement of security and judicial cooperation”, the sources added.

The parliaments of the 30 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) must approve the candidacies of Sweden and Finland, which would mark a historic enlargement of the alliance as the war in Ukraine continues .

In a sign that the talks were progressing, the Swedish foreign minister said friday he expects the last two holdouts, Turkey and Hungary, to vote on his NATO candidacies soon.

Erdogan was quoted by Turkish broadcasters saying on Friday that Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson supports the fight against terrorism and that they would meet to discuss the NATO bid and extraditions.

A day earlier Kristersson said after meeting with the Secretary General of NATO that his government “will redouble its efforts to implement the trilateral memorandum with Finland and Turkey”.

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Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Additional reporting by Simon Johnson in Stockholm; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Diane Craft

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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