Sweden's top diplomat vows to fulfil terms of Turkey Nato deal

Swedish government says it shares Turkey’s concern about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom. AP
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Sweden will fulfil all requirements under a deal with Turkey to join Nato and will drop the previous administration’s “feminist foreign policy", the country’s top diplomat said on Monday.

The Swedish government shares Turkey’s concern about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey, Europe and the US, Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said.

“There will be no nonsense from the Swedish government when it comes to the PKK,” Mr Billstrom told AP.

“We are fully behind a policy which means that terrorist organisations don’t have a right to function on Swedish territory.”

Turkey stalled Sweden and Finland’s historic bid to join Nato over concerns that the two countries, Sweden in particular, had become a safe haven for members of the PKK and affiliated groups.

Under a n agreement signed by Sweden’s previous left-leaning government at a Nato summit in June, it and Finland committed to not support Kurdish groups in Syria that Turkey says are affiliated with the PKK.

They also pledged to lift their arms embargos on Ankara, which were imposed after its incursion into northern Syria in 2019.

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They also agreed to “address pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects,” which has proven more complicated because of the broad definition of terrorism in Turkey.

There, anti-terrorism laws have been used to crack down on opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Everything which is written into the trilateral memorandum, and which has been agreed upon by all three parties, should be fulfilled, needs to be fulfilled by all the three parties,” Mr Billstrom said.

He said that “everything also has to be done in a legally safe way".

The PKK has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and the conflict has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

Paul Levin, director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, said the new government might have an advantage over the previous Social Democratic government in dealing with Turkey because it does not have the same links to the Kurdish diaspora in Sweden.

But the independence of the authorities and the courts in Sweden “sets limits to what is possible, and so does international law", Mr Levin said.

Hungary and Turkey are the only Nato countries that have not yet ratified the accession of Sweden and Finland, traditionally non-aligned countries that rushed to apply for membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Like most European countries, Sweden has clearly taken Ukraine’s side in the war, supplying its armed forces with anti-tank weapons, assault rifles and anti-ship missiles.

Ukraine has also asked Sweden to provide the Archer artillery and RBS-70 portable air defence systems. Mr Billstrom said the new government has not yet decided on those requests.

“We are ready to try and give as much aid as possible to the Ukrainian government in its heroic struggle against the Russian forces,” he said.

“We shall see when we have made the proper assessments about these matters.”

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Mr Billstrom also pledged a shift in Sweden’s foreign relations, with more emphasis on northern Europe.

Traditionally, Stockholm has sought to project itself internationally as a “humanitarian superpower”, with relatively generous support for developing countries around the globe and a strong commitment to the UN.

“This is not to say that we won’t be interested in the rest of the world, far from it,” Mr Billstrom said.

He said he gave a speech earlier on Monday at a celebration for UN Day, which marks the anniversary of the world body's 1945 charter.

“But when it comes to these recalibrations that we are aiming at, it is true that there will be a shift of focus,” Mr Billstrom said.

“And the Nordic countries, the Baltic countries and the European Union will be the three legs on which we will base this recalibration.”

He said the new government would give up the “feminist foreign policy”, which the previous government established in 2014.

The label has since been used by other countries, including Canada, France, Spain and Germany.

“We believe that equal rights between men and women is important, but to use the expression ‘feminist foreign policy’ means that you sometimes divert the interest away from what is really important," Mr Billstrom said.

"You put more emphasis upon the label than about the actual content."

Updated: October 25, 2022, 12:45 AM