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Sweden 'wants six more months' from Turkey to honour Nato conditions

Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin says Ankara is keen to resolve the issue before upcoming elections
Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Tobias Billstrom (L) and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu shake hands after a joint press conference in Ankara on 22 December 2022 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Istanbul, Turkey

Swedish officials have asked for more time from Turkey to codify laws that could satisfy Ankara's conditions for the country's Nato membership, a senior Turkish official said on Saturday.

Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish president's spokesperson, told a group of journalists that Stockholm has to take more steps to meet Ankara's threshold and it needs to be quick because of looming Turkish elections.

He said Sweden's constitutional amendments against terrorism had been in effect since 1 January but more changes to the relevant laws in accordance with the amendments could take some time.

"It may take six months to codify them, until June," Kalin said.

"They need to send a very concrete message to terror groups that Sweden isn't a safe haven for them."

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Sweden and Finland signed an agreement with Turkey last year aimed at overcoming Ankara's objection to their Nato bids, which were made in May and require the approval of all 30 Nato member states.

The changes would empower the Swedish government to crack down on recruitment, financing and activities of "terrorist organisations" such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged decades long warfare against the Turkish government over Kurdish rights. Turkey, the EU and the US have designated the PKK as a terror group due to its attack against civilian targets.

Swedish officials, according to Kalin, told their Turkish counterparts that until now they didn't realise how deep PKK had been penetrating the Swedish political system through recruitment and financing efforts.

Elections deadline

Kalin said Sweden has eight to 10 weeks to make relevant changes because the Turkish parliament may go into recess before the elections which are scheduled for mid-June. He added that he expected that the elections would be rescheduled to mid-May and the parliament could decide a break two months ahead of the elections.

"The Turkish opposition may ask all sorts of questions if they don't deliver the changes before we go to parliament to ratify it," he said.

Kalin said Sweden could deliver some of the Turkish demands against the PKK by administrative action if they cannot rush some of the legal changes before the Turkish elections.

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A Turkish delegation led by Kalin will meet with Swedish and Finnish officials in Brussels next month at the Nato headquarters to discuss the roadmap, Kalin added.

Turkey's foreign minister said on Friday that Ankara expected firm action from Sweden after an incident in Stockholm in which an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was strung up, adding further diplomatic strain to Sweden's bid to join Nato.

Footage first shared on Twitter by the pro-Kurdish Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava, a reference to Kurdish regions of Syria, showed an Erdogan effigy hung by its feet outside Stockholm city hall with a few people standing by.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told broadcaster TV4 on Friday that the act was "extremely serious" and he considered it a sabotage against the Nato application.

Police said they had no knowledge of the incident until it was over.

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