Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said Sunday that negotiations with Turkey on Stockholm’s NATO bid are “becoming difficult,” The Cradle reported.
Linde said that the situation became more difficult after a photograph was taken in July that showed a group of Swedish MPs and members of Sweden’s Left Party holding the flags of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Defense Units (YPG), two Kurdish-led groups Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
“Negotiations with Turkey over NATO have become more difficult, after deputies from the Left Party raised the flag of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),” Linde said. The US and the EU have also labeled the PKK as a terrorist group, but consider the YPG to be a separate organization.
“According to Swedish law this is considered freedom of expression, but we believe that this is a completely inappropriate situation for the government,” Linde said.
Turkey initially blocked Sweden and Finland from applying to join NATO over allegations that the two Nordic countries supported the PKK. But Turkey lifted its objection after signing a memorandum with the two nations back in June. Linde said officials from Sweden, Finland, and Turkey recently met in Helsinki to discuss the implementation of the agreement.
A major aspect of the memorandum was Sweden and Finland agreeing to respond to Turkey’s extradition requests. Turkey has asked Sweden to extradite a number of suspected PKK members and people from other groups. Sweden recently announced it would extradite a man wanted in Turkey for fraud, but Ankara said that wasn’t enough to live up to the deal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Turkey’s parliament can still block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO if they don’t live up to Ankara’s demands.
The Swedish government is under domestic pressure not to comply with Turkey. “They want to turn around, willing to cozy up with the dictator Erdogan. All to join NATO,” said Delgado Varas, one of the MPs seen holding the flags in July, according to The Cradle.