Sweden’s NATO bid got a lot more complicated this week after the Swedish government barely survived a no-confidence vote against its justice minister prompted by a rise in gang violence.
In order to survive the vote, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats needed the support of Amineh Kakabaveh, an independent MP of Kurdish-Iranian heritage. Kakabaveh voted with the Social Democrats, and her single vote gave them the majority in parliament.
After the vote on Tuesday, Kakabaveh said the Swedish government gave her assurances that they wouldn’t cave to Turkey’s demands regarding Kurdish militant groups that Ankara says are necessary for the Nordic nation to be able to join NATO.
Turkey wants both Sweden and Finland to crack down on the PKK, a Kurdish militant group Ankara, the US, and the EU consider a terrorist organization. Ankara also wants the Nordic nations to lift export restrictions they placed on Turkey in response to its offensive in northeast Syria in 2019.
Last November, Kakabaveh and the Swedish government reached a deal that she would vote to bring the cabinet into power in exchange for a resolution for deeper cooperation with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is considered the Syrian affiliate of the PKK. The PYD is also affiliated with the YPG, the military wing of the Kurdish-led SDF, which the US backs in northeast Syria.
According to Kakabaveh, the November deal said that it was “unacceptable” that certain states classify the YPG and PYD as terrorists and called for the Social Democrats to “deepen their cooperation with the PYD.”
The Social Democrats confirmed Tuesday that the deal was still in effect, signaling that the Swedish government won’t give in to Turkey’s demands. “The agreement we reached in November still applies … we Social Democrats always stand by the agreements we make, you can always trust that,” said Tobias Baudin, the party secretary for the Social Democrats.
Turkish officials have made clear that they won’t drop their objection to Sweden and Finland’s NATO memberships if they don’t see “concrete steps,” and the two countries need the consent of all 30 NATO members to join. It’s unclear if Finland would still join the military alliance without Sweden, as the two Nordic countries decided together to put in their applications.