(Photo Credit: Reuters)
On 5 November, Sweden reaffirmed its decision to distance itself from Kurdish militant groups in Syria to secure Turkey’s approval in its bid to join NATO, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom confirmed.
Throughout the year, Turkey has rejected Sweden and Finland’s request to join NATO over their alleged ties to the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The US continues to support these Kurdish groups as it claims that they are essential in the fight against ISIS and other Islamic radical groups; however, the YPG makes up the backbone of the US-sponsored Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been trying for years to oust President Bashar al-Assad and often aids Washington in its oil looting operations in northeast Syria.
The two Nordic countries applied for NATO membership earlier in the year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, yet Turkey has vowed to block their admission until they cut ties with the Kurdish groups and extradite anyone it considers a “terrorist” sympathizer.
A day prior, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg demanded that Turkey unblocks the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.
Stoltenberg asked Turkey to ratify the entry protocol of both Scandinavian countries after defending that they are fulfilling agreements with Ankara on anti-terrorism and are committed to the nation’s long-term security, according to Al-Monitor news.
“It is time to make them full members of the Alliance,” the NATO leader demanded, expressing his desire for this to happen “in the near future,” once the Turkish Parliament approves.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu acknowledged that Sweden and Finland are taking steps in the right direction, including legislative changes and lifting the embargo on arms sales to Ankara, but insisted that there are still measures to be put in place.
According to the Finnish leader, the entry of both Nordic countries would strengthen the US-led military alliance. Their access should occur “simultaneously,” as has been the case so far with the entire accession process.
On the other hand, the spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Omer Celik, said late on 31 October that his country is “not satisfied” with the promises made by Sweden to crack down on Kurdish groups.