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Turkey is threatening to veto NATO membership for Sweden and Finland even as the military alliance formally paved the way for the two Nordic countries to join.
Turkey will not ratify membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the applicants if they don’t fufill their promises to combat terrorism and extradite suspects under a memorandum of understanding reached at an alliance summit in Madrid last week, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday.
“They have to comply with this document, if they don’t then we won’t allow them to join NATO,” Cavusoglu told NTV television.
NATO Expansion Moves Ahead With Finland, Sweden Agreement
All 30 allies signed accession protocols for Sweden and Finland at a ceremony in Brussels on Tuesday, making the countries formal invitees and allowing them access to almost all NATO meetings. The protocol then has to be ratified by allies’ parliaments before the countries become members.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that he is counting on all allies to ensure a speedy ratification, and expects the process to take “months.”
Despite the Madrid agreement, Turkey’s lingering threat could still complicate the membership process. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing presidential and parliamentary elections within less than a year. Being seen as adopting a tough stance could consolidate support in nationalist circles.
Erdogan said last week that the Turkish parliament will not ratify Sweden and Finland’s applications if they don’t keep their written promises on Turkey’s security concerns, adding that Sweden had recently pledged to extradite dozens of people Turkey views as terrorists, and hand them over to Turkish authorities for prosecution.
“Sweden promised us that it will give us those 73 people,” Erdogan said. “We will now follow it up and we will make our decision accordingly.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told reporters in Brussels that “there is no mention of any list or any numbers in the memorandum.” She added that “during negotiations in Madrid there was also no mention of any number or any specific lists.”
The deal signed by Turkey, Sweden and Finland stated: “Finland and Sweden will address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly, taking into account information, evidence and intelligence provided by Turkey, and establish necessary bilateral legal frameworks to facilitate extradition and security cooperation with Turkey, in accordance with the European Convention on Extradition.”
Sweden’s Supreme Court has rejected a large majority of extradition requests from Turkey in the past decade, and the government has said that authorities will continue to follow Swedish laws as it examines any petitions.
“It is important that we work against terrorism, but obviously we do so according to Swedish laws and international conventions,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters on a visit to the island of Gotland this weekend. “If you are not engaged in terrorism, you have no reason to be concerned.”
Andersson, who declined to comment on any specific number of extradition requests, stressed that according to the country’s laws, Swedish citizens can’t be extradited. A number of the persons that are reportedly on the list of people Turkey wants extradited have previously had their cases heard before the Supreme Court, which rejected the requests.
Later Tuesday, Erdogan will welcome Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Ankara for the first summit between the two countries in over a decade. The meeting will focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, energy issues, and how to boost corporate ties. The encounter will also mark a warming of relationships after Draghi called Erdogan a dictator last year.
(Updates with signings, Stoltenberg and Linde remarks from first paragraph)
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