Sweden vows to ‘do everything’ to implement NATO deal with Türkiye
‘We have committed ourselves to improve our ability to combat terrorism and we’re doing it hand-in-hand with Türkiye,’ Swedish foreign minister tells Anadolu Agency
Stockholm is committed to fulfilling all the obligations under a NATO deal to address Türkiye’s security concerns, the Swedish foreign minister told Anadolu Agency.
“We will do everything that we have said that we will do within this memorandum to the last letter as long as it is within the framework of the constitution of Sweden and the legislation and principles of the rule of law,” Tobias Billstrom said in an exclusive interview.
Billstrom’s remarks came after he met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in the capital Ankara to discuss bilateral relations and Sweden’s NATO membership process.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s war against Ukraine which started on Feb. 24.
But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups, including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
This June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.
Billstrom said that Sweden has extradited three people, including a PKK terror group member, to Türkiye.
Sweden will have a new amendment to the constitution as of the new year, making it possible to pass stricter anti-terrorism laws, he also said.
“Step-by-step we are fulfilling our commitments within the memorandum and I’m sure you appreciate amending the constitution is a big thing. It’s a big thing for any country but we are doing this because we have committed ourselves to improving our ability to combat terrorism and we’re doing it hand-in-hand with Türkiye which was also at the press conference acknowledged by Foreign Minister Cavusoglu,” he said.
Stockholm understands Türkiye’s concerns
Sweden is now much more enlightened about the problems that Türkiye is facing when it comes to terrorism, Billstrom said, adding the memorandum has had a “sobering effect.”
“… Türkiye, the country for decades has been the subject of terrorism, recently in November suffered another terrorist attack on its territory. I mean that took place in one of the most crowded streets in Istanbul. We can understand this and we can understand the worries this created in Turkish society,” he added.
He stressed that PKK activities should be prohibited not just because of the memorandum but also because Sweden is an EU member, which designated the PKK as a terrorist organization.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
“Everything laid down in the memorandum, we will fulfill. And when that is done, it paves the way for an improved relationship between Türkiye and Sweden, not only for NATO accession. That is one thing and that is important.
“We will also be able to do a lot of things together and we want to do that this is my promise also to the Turkish people as we sit here today just a few days before we come to the 1st of January to change our constitution. We do this in good faith and we do it because we know that this is important also for you, not just for us,” Billstrom said.
Turning to Russia, the minister said without Sweden and Finland, it will be “very difficult” for NATO to uphold its security ambitions on its northern flank.
“It is quite clear with the Russian threat so close, it would be very beneficial for us, it would be imperative to join NATO. We also will offer NATO a lot of good things …” he added.