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Turkey demands extradition of PKK members from Sweden, Finland for Nato bid

Ankara wants both to stop PKK activities in their countries and drop arms export ban against Turkey
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrives for an informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on the conflict in Ukraine on May 14, 2022 in Berlin.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrives for an informal meeting of Nato foreign ministers on the conflict in Ukraine on 14 May 2022 in Berlin (AFP)

Turkey said on Sunday that Sweden and Finland must provide security guarantees on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and lift all arms embargoes against Ankara before it can support their Nato membership bids. 

Cavusoglu said Ankara was making progress with Finland on the issue but Sweden was continuing to be “provocative”, and that Turkey would only be happy after getting security assurances.

Turkey has also asked both countries to extradite suspected PKK members.

Sweden and Finland are preparing to make an official application to become members of Nato after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February pushed them to abandon their decades-long neutral stance. 

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last Friday said that Ankara wouldn’t rubber-stamp their accession to the alliance over their alleged lax attitude towards the PKK, which for four decades has waged war against the Turkish state: first for a Kurdish independent state, and later for an autonomous region.

Turkey, the US and EU all designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation, due to a history of deadly attacks on civilians. The group previously fought for an independent Kurdish state and now seeks autonomy for Kurdish areas.

'They will come up with a new plan'

Cavusoglu said he shared pictures and documents with the Swedish authorities that show the PKK freely operating in Sweden. 

“We told them that we cannot be satisfied with Sweden’s already existing declaration that the PKK is on their terror list,” Cavusoglu said after meeting Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers in Berlin on Sunday. “They told us that they will come up with a new plan.” 

Turkish officials believe Finland is closer to striking a deal with Turkey over the PKK than Sweden. "They are being more responsive and constructive," Cavusoglu said. 

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The Turkish justice ministry on Monday said that Ankara had requested the extradition of six alleged PKK members from Finland and 11 alleged PKK members from Sweden. It has received no response so far. 

The Swedish government said that it would send a delegation to Turkey in the coming days to discuss the issue. “We will see what kind of security guarantees they will come up with,” Cavusoglu said. 

Turkey also wants all Finnish and Swedish arms export bans again Ankara to be lifted before they join Nato. Both countries imposed embargoes on Turkey following the latter’s 2019 incursion in northern Syria against the PKK’s Syrian arm, the YPG. 

Erdogan’s spokesman and senior foreign policy advisor Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters over the weekend that the PKK was fundraising and recruiting in Europe and that its presence was “strong and open and acknowledged” in Sweden, in particular.

“What needs to be done is clear," he said. "They have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to… exist in those countries."