Fears mounting Sweden could sacrifice too much for NATO bid

As diplomatic talks between Sweden and Turkey continue, prominent figures in the country express concerns over possible compromises.

“If you want to sell everything for NATO membership, then go ahead but I think it’s awful,” Swedish deputy Amineh Kakabaveh, who has from Iranian Kurdish heritage, told AFP on Friday. “It’s awful that everything depends on NATO membership, rushing it through and undermining democracy.”

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cites concerns over what he calls the Nordic countries’ support for terrorism to oppose the bids. All NATO members have the power to veto any candidate countries.

“Let’s not fall into Erdoğan’s trap”, 17 Swedish journalists and figures in the cultural sphere said in a joint letter published on Wednesday in several newspapers in the country. In the letter, the 17 signatories expressed “concern and discomfort” over erosion of press freedom in Sweden.

Erdoğan’s demands from Sweden include the extradition of several journalists, writers and publishers. A list of some 30 people include those Turkey considers affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Sweden recognises PKK as a terrorist organisation, as do Turkey and the European Union, but has no bans against the YPG. The country is also home to around 100,000 Kurds, a significant portion of whom are political asylum seekers from Turkey who have fled since the 1970s.

Ankara’s ambassador to Sweden Hakkı Emre Yunt has suggested that Kakabaveh should be among those extradited to Turkey. “PKK has links to members of the Riksdag,” Yunt said last week, citing Kakabaveh by name.

The Kurdish-Swedish deputy, who has no relation to Turkey, had cast the deciding vote for Magdalena Andersson to become prime minister last year, in return for the Swedish Social Democrats cooperating with Syrian Kurdish political party Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Others on Turkey’s list are accused of having ties to Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey holds responsible for the failed coup attempt of 2016.

“We were actually joking a month before Sweden decided to apply for membership in NATO,” said Abdullah Bozkurt, co-founder of the news website Nordic Monitor. “We said 'If they do, our names are perhaps going to come up on the bargaining table'. And that is exactly what happened.”

Negotiations with Turkey will reveal Sweden’s “true face”, Linnaeus University’s Barzoo Eliassi told AFP, and show “what is non-negotiable”.

Stockholm giving in to Ankara’s demands would not work out for the country, Bozkurt said.

“If they give in even before joining NATO, I think it will be counterproductive and it will undermine the very reason that they wanted to join the alliance in the first place,” he said.

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