Top Swedish and Turkish officials have made contradictory statements about negotiations to unblock Stockholm’s NATO bid. Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told reporters on Monday that the country was in a “very good location” – hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that Stockholm hand over more than 100 people believed to be “terrorists”.
“The situation regarding the negotiations, or rather the follow-up to the memorandum, is going well.” stated Kristersson.
The Swedish prime minister’s tone differed from statements made by Erdogan late on Sunday.
“We said look, so if you don’t hand over your terrorists to us, we can’t pass [the ratification of the NATO bid] through Parliament anyway”, he said. “For this to pass parliament, first of all, you have to hand over 100, about 130 of these terrorists to us.”
The comments echo statements made on Saturday by Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman, who noted that time is running out for Ankara to ratify bids by Sweden and Finland to join the bloc.
“Stockholm is fully committed to implementing the agreement signed last year in Madrid, but the country needs six more months to write new laws that would allow the legal system to implement the new definitions of terrorism.” Kalin stated.
In June last year, Sweden and Finland signed a three-way agreement with Turkey to address Ankara’s concerns about support for “terrorism” and restrictions on arms sales. The two Nordic countries vowed to condemn and extradite people Ankara accuses of terrorism, namely those said to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other groups.
Currently, Trkiye and Hungary are the only two members of the US-led bloc that have yet officially approved Sweden’s NATO bid. Ties between Ankara and Stockholm were put under fresh strain last week, after a group of protesters hoisted a picture of President Erdogan on a bridge near Stockholm’s city hall. The display was apparently organized by the Rojava Solidarity Committee of Sweden, a group associated with the PKK.
Ankara condemned the stunt and summoned the Swedish ambassador over the offensive protest. Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish Presidency’s communications director, said the incident has clearly shown “that the PKK terrorist can challenge the Swedish government in the heart of Stockholm” and is “proof that the Swedish authorities have not taken the necessary measures against terrorism.” despite their claims.