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Turkey open to NATO talks with Finland, Sweden despite PKK support

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Turkey has not shut the door on Sweden and Finland joining NATO and is willing to negotiate with the countries if they agree to clamp down on domestic terrorist activities and end their support of the PKK

Turkey voiced readiness on Saturday to discuss Finland and Sweden’s plans to join NATO despite their support for the PKK terrorist organization, which poses a serious national security threat to Ankara.

“Security guarantees are definitely needed. They need to end their support for terrorist organizations,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters on Sunday in Berlin.

“We have explained to member countries during the NATO meeting the support of Sweden and Finland to terrorist organizations. We have voiced openly especially the weapons support of Sweden. The statements of the Swedish foreign minister so far, have not been constructive but provocative,” he added and also mentioned that during a meeting with the two countries, a working proposal came to address Turkey’s concerns.

“A big majority of the Turkish people are against the membership of those countries who are supporting the PKK terrorist organization … but these are the issues that we need to discuss of course with our NATO allies as well as these countries,” Çavuşoğlu said a day earlier while arriving for talks in Berlin with his NATO counterparts as well as Finland and Sweden.

Ahead of the meeting, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey has always been in favor of an “open-door policy.” However, he noted that Finland and Sweden were “openly supporting and are engaging with the PKK/YPG terrorist organization,” which has been “attacking Turkey and killing Turkish troops and people.”

“Therefore, it is unacceptable and outrageous that our friends and allies are supporting this terrorist organization. And because of our fight against this terrorist organization, there have been export restrictions on the defense industry products that we are importing from allies and some countries that are planning to be members of NATO,” he said.

“NATO is a union, not an international organization. As its name suggests, it is an alliance. What does this necessitate? Not only security, but shoulder-to-shoulder solidarity. In all fields. Especially when there is a threat in terms of security,” he added.

Later in the day, Çavuşoğlu held a tripartite meeting with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts, Ann Linde and Pekka Haavisto, on the margins of the informal NATO foreign ministers’ meeting.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö confirmed on Sunday that the country will apply for membership of the defence alliance and said that Finland is ready to talk with Ankara on problems raised by the Turkish president. Formally, the Finnish parliament must approve the step but a majority is considered certain, as the country’s ruling Social Democrats already endorsed the step on Saturday.

‘Talks on good track’

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg voiced confidence Sunday at resolving Turkey’s concerns on expected membership bids by Sweden and Finland.

“I am confident we’ll be able to find common ground, consensus on how to move on membership issues,” Stoltenberg told reporters virtually at a NATO meeting in Berlin, adding that he was in touch with Çavuşoğlu.

Similarly, NATO’s deputy secretary-general said earlier he was confident that Turkey’s concerns would be addressed.

“Turkey is an important ally and expressed concerns that are addressed between friends and allies,” Mircea Geoana told reporters on arrival at the foreign ministers’ meeting of alliance members in Berlin.

“I am confident if these countries decide to seek membership in NATO we will be able to welcome them to find all conditions for consensus to be met.”

Stoltenberg, who couldn’t attend the Berlin meeting as he has tested positive for COVID-19, spoke with several of the ministers on the phone before the talks began, among them were U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of Turkey, Finland and Sweden.

Similarly, Croatia’s foreign minister said on the same day that talks between Turkey, Finland and Sweden over its concerns with regard to their membership in the NATO alliance were on the right track after all three met on Saturday.

“Discussions are on a good track and we hope we will have a good outcome today to show solidarity and speak with one voice,” Gordan Grlic-Radman told reporters at the NATO foreign ministers meeting.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has swung political and public opinion in Finland and neighboring Sweden in favor of NATO membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

All 30 members of the alliance must agree before new members can join, but multiple governments have already voiced their support for Helsinki and Stockholm.

On the other side, Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said on Saturday: “We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday it was not possible for Turkey to support enlarging the alliance because Finland and Sweden are home to many terrorist organizations. “There are supporters of terrorism in parliament. We cannot be positive toward this,” he said.

‘Mutual point of view’

Kalın said the PKK was fund-raising and recruiting in Europe and its presence is “strong and open and acknowledged” in Sweden in particular.

“What needs to be done is clear: They have to stop allowing the PKK outlets, activities, organizations, individuals and other types of presence to … exist in those countries,” Kalın said.

“NATO membership is always a process. We will see how things go. But this is the first point that we want to bring to the attention of all the allies as well as to Swedish authorities,” he added. “Of course we want to have a discussion, a negotiation with Swedish counterparts.”

Asked whether Turkey risked being too transactional at a time of war, and when Finnish and Swedish public opinion favors NATO membership, he said: “100% of our population is very upset with the PKK’s and FETÖ’s (Gülenist Terror Group) presence in Europe.”

“If they (Finland and Sweden) have a public concerned about their own national security, we have a public that is equally concerned about our own security,” he said. “We have to see this from a mutual point of view.”

Kalın said Russia’s sharp criticism of Finland and Sweden over their plans was not a factor in Turkey’s position.

PKK’s presence in Finland

Though Ankara repeatedly expressed its goals to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates of the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization, the YPG, Finnish Foreign Minister Haavisto in October 2019 condemned Turkey’s operation, claiming it would “result in an increase in displacement and human suffering.”

Furthermore, Finland’s then-Prime Minister Antti Rinne claimed: “Turkey’s actions aggravate the already complex crisis in Syria. We are very concerned about the impacts of the measures on the humanitarian situation in Syria.”

In a statement in October 2019, Rinne announced that the government will not approve any new arms export licenses to Turkey.

During protests organized by the Finnish Kurds Association and/or Union of Kurdish Associations, banners displaying photos of Abdullah Öcalan, the head of the PKK terrorist group, and YPG/PKK flags have been paraded.

In addition to the YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, Finland continues to host members of FETÖ, the terrorist group behind the defeated coup of 2016 in Turkey.

There are three FETÖ-linked educational institutions in Finland – one is for primary education, namely Kielo International School, and the other two are kindergartens – Tiny Hands English Kindergarten and Paivakoti Piccolo Kindergarten.

The terrorist group also has an association called the “Uusimaa Islamic and Cultural Association.”

FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, in Turkey, in which 251 people were killed and 2,734 injured.

Sweden’s links with YPG/PKK, FETÖ

In July 2021, Turkey slammed a meeting via videolink between Sweden’s foreign minister and members of the YPG terrorist group. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the incident “raises serious question marks about Sweden’s approach to combating terrorism as a matter of priority.”

Indeed, the terrorist group has had an office in the Swedish capital Stockholm since 2016. According to sources who spoke to Anadolu Agency (AA), who wish to remain anonymous due to media restrictions, the PKK terrorist group generates significant income in Sweden through theft, arms trafficking, drug dealing and racketeering.

The terrorist group is reportedly generating income under organizations such as the NCDK and “Kurdiska Rode Halvmanen.”

In March 2021, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Twitter shared her video meeting with Ilham Ahmed, one of the ringleaders of the YPG, saying: “Good discussion with Ilham Ahmad from SDC in northeast Syria. We talked about the #Syria10 crisis and Sweden’s ongoing role ahead of #SyriaConf2021. Reaffirmed our collaboration in the fight against Daesh.”

In April 2021, Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist held a teleconference with Ferhat Abdi Şahin, another ringleader of the YPG terrorist group.

Footage of the meeting was released on websites known for their affinity with the terrorist organization as Hultqvist expressed his support for the terrorist group.

Furthermore, according to information AA obtained from security sources, the terrorist group targeted the Turkish security elements in Syria, northern Iraq and Turkey, using Swedish-produced AT-4, U.S.-originated TOW as well as French-German MILAN anti-tank missiles.

It was detected that the terrorist group used more than 40 AT-4 and MILAN anti-tank ammunition during attacks on security forces from 2017 to 2021.

On April 27, 2022, a session was held in the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) to remove the PKK from the EU’s terrorist organizations list. The event, which was attended by PKK affiliates, was reported by pro-PKK ANF news.

Sweden is a known safe haven for FETÖ terrorists like Abdullah Bozkurt, the former Ankara representative of the now-defunct Today’s Zaman newspaper who is facing charges of being a member of the group and has launched a news website called “Nordic Monitor.” The website frequently publishes defamatory news against Turkey.

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