Europe should prepare for more blackmail from Turkey

Turkey has lifted its veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid for NATO membership, ending a week-long dispute that has tested the unity of the NATO alliance. against Russian “special operations” in Ukraine. The June 28, 2022 breakthrough came after four hours of talks just before the start of a NATO summit in Madrid.

A tripartite memorandum confirming that Turkey will support Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership was signed after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Madrid.

Stoltenberg said the terms of the tripartite memorandum entailed Sweden stepping up its work on Turkish extradition requests for suspected Kurdish separatist fighters and amending Swedish and Finnish laws to toughen their approach to them. Stoltenberg also said Sweden and Finland would lift restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.

Ankara hailed the deal as a triumph. Finland and Sweden also agreed “not to impose embargo restrictions in the field of defense industry” on Turkey and to take “concrete steps for the extradition of terrorist criminals”. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s office triumphantly said in a statement following the decision that “Turkey got what it wanted”.

The United States led a campaign led by NATO members to allow Sweden and Finland to join the alliance to show their strength and unity to President Vladimir Putin in response to his invasion of the Ukraine. Sweden and Finland had applied for membership in mid-May.

Turkey, which was barred from the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jet program after acquiring S-400 missile defenses from Russia in 2019, expects a green light from the U.S. Congress to approve its purchase of new F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits for its existing aircraft fleet.

The White House also imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defense procurement agency. Turkey surprised its NATO allies when it initially opposed Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.

Ankara demanded that the Nordic countries stop supporting Kurdish armed groups, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and lift their bans on the sale of certain weapons to Turkey. Turkey has raised concerns that Sweden is harboring PKK members, which Stockholm has denied.

Before leaving for the NATO summit in Madrid, Erdoğan said he would push US President Joe Biden to strike a deal for the F-16 fighter jets.

The United States previously blocked Turkey from acquiring F-35 fighter jets after Ankara bought the S-400 missile defense system from Russia in 2017. Although President Biden personally intervened in the dispute Diplomacy ahead of trilateral talks in Madrid, the US president’s office denied making concessions to Turkey for dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Biden on June 30, however, said the United States supported the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, adding that he had confidence in the congressional approval needed for the sale to be obtained, complicating the scene more.

US senators have opposed any attempt to negotiate with Turkey over Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez said in a briefing. June 22 committee hearing on NATO enlargement, “we don’t need extraction or concessions”. take place for two great democracies to join NATO.

Immediately after the conclusion of the NATO membership agreement on June 28, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said (June 29, 2022) that Turkey awaits the extradition of 33 terrorism suspects from Sweden and Finland, adding that Turkey would renew a request for Sweden and Finland. to extradite individuals it considers to be terrorists.

“The files of six members of the PKK, six members of the FETÖ (Gülen Movement) are waiting in Finland, while those of 10 members of the FETÖ and 11 members of the PKK are waiting in Sweden. We will write about their extradition again after the deal and remind them,” Bozdağ said.

While the PKK is considered a terrorist group by the EU, US and UK, they do not see the Gülen movement in the same light. As Turkish public agency Anadolu (AA) reported on May 19, 2022, Turkey wants to extradite the following people: writer Mehmet Sıraç Bilgin, Aysel Alhan, Aziz Turan, writer and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, Halef Tek, Harun Tokak, Bülent Kenes, Yılmaz Ayten and Levent Kenez, and Abdullah Bozkurt.

The agreement Sweden signed with Turkey to join NATO has raised concern among Kurds and left-wing political parties in the country. Measures including an agreement to lift an arms embargo and respond to Turkey’s request to extradite Kurdish terror suspects have been seen as too big a concession to Turkey.

If this memorandum is very significant to show how the will displayed by Turkey in terms of foreign policy has borne fruit, it is also important insofar as the FETÖ, the PYD and the YPG (Syrian branches of the PKK), which Were not qualified as terrorists in international agreements or other texts with the exception of the PKK, were qualified as terrorists.

It is clear that Ankara wants a “ransom” from Stockholm.

Turkey has also abused the Interpol mechanism. He declared dissidents criminals for political purposes and asked the Interpol extradition mechanism to seek their extradition to Turkey.

Turkey has the legal right to apply on the basis of existing records, but it also has the obligation to respect the laws of other countries. In accordance with Swedish law, the legal and political status of exiles in the country cannot be subject to an “extradition request” to Turkey.

Sweden’s Supreme Court, which functions as a Constitutional Court, ruled that the extradition request should be dismissed “on the ground that the offenses indicated concerned freedom of thought and the related acts fell outside the scope criminal acts”. under Swedish law.

Disregarding court decisions is unfortunately a habit in Turkey. The glaring examples are the cases of imprisoned philanthropist businessman Osman Kavala and imprisoned politician Selahattin Demirtas.

The Turkish government wants other governments to do the same. The complication stems from a definition of terrorism in Turkish law that goes beyond the criminalization of participation in acts of violence and undermines fundamental freedom of expression. This loose and often aggressive framing of the terms terrorist and terrorism is regularly used by Erdoğan and members of his government to silence and suppress their critics and opponents.

Swedish Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar warned of “the danger of putting Swedish foreign policy in the hands of the despot Erdoğan”.

The Green Party also called on Sweden’s foreign minister to appear before the parliamentary foreign affairs committee to explain what exactly Sweden conceded to Turkey.

Foreign Minister Ann Linde was forced to issue a statement to Swedish media after the deal was announced that Sweden would not agree to any extraditions requested by Turkey unless there is proof of terrorist activity.

NATO itself has become another target of Erdoğan’s vitriol as he blames the West for Turkey’s growing economic ills and political isolation.

It dates back to the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt, when lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) alleged NATO involvement without presenting any evidence, even calling it a “terrorist organization”.

This allegation has been periodically entertained by the government even though Erdoğan personally avoided it.

Yet Erdoğan’s close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the decision to buy S-400 missiles from Russia, and a fierce diplomatic battle over them with Washington have deeply damaged Turkey’s reliability as a NATO ally.

Skepticism over Turkey’s place in the alliance has been further heightened by Erdoğan’s threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors, including seven allies, for asking him to implement a European Court of Rights ruling. Rights (ECHR) and to liberate Kavala.

Instead, Erdoğan chose to categorically reject the ECHR decision as well as the Council of Europe’s initiation of disciplinary action against Turkey.

The conditions for lifting Ankara’s NATO membership veto against Finland and Sweden include requirements that are incompatible with the ECHR.

EP rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, said (22 June 2007) that the European Parliament (EP) will not remain silent in the face of Turkey’s latest violations of fundamental freedoms, regardless of its geopolitical role.

The EU remains a club of advanced democracies, and at the heart of the report is the current dire state of democratic standards in Turkey, Amor said.

With this NATO agreement, Sweden’s reputation as a refuge for the persecuted has not only been tarnished, but the EU’s reputation as a standard-bearer for human rights would also be called into question. if the extradition took place under this agreement.

It seems Turkey has succeeded in blackmailing NATO, lifting its veto to unlock Finland and Sweden’s membership of the 30-nation alliance. Finland and Sweden, from now on, were forced to meet Turkey’s demands in order to join NATO.

However, if membership were true, not only Sweden and Finland, but also current NATO members would have to deviate from the ECHR standards in their national legislation.

Erdoğan issued his blunt warning at the end of a June 30 NATO summit that Sweden and Finland must follow through on a new membership deal with Ankara or Turkey could still block their bid to join. membership in NATO. A long, hot summer awaits NATO.

Petros Aramidis is a geopolitical analyst based in Athens.

READ MORE: US to block sale of F-16s to Turkey if it doesn’t stop illegal flights over Greek islands.

Key words:
Bekir Bozdağ, ECHR, Erdogan, FETO, Finland, Gulen, NATO, Petros Aramidi, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sweden, Turkey

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