Following this decision, Erdogan is demanding that Helsinki and Stockholm honour their commitments towards the Kurds. Meanwhile, Ankara hopes to acquire F-16 fighter jets from the US

What does Turkey gain by lifting the veto on Finland and Sweden?

PHOTO/NATO SUMMIT - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosts the signing of the tripartite memorandum between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson approving Turkey's application for membership of Sweden and Finland in the Atlantic Alliance, NATO Summit in Madrid, 29 June 2022.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as one of the biggest winners at this week's NATO summit in Madrid. By allowing Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, Ankara achieved several key diplomatic successes for its national interests.

Shortly after the two Nordic nations expressed their desire to join the military organisation in the face of the Russian threat, the Turkish government announced that it would not support their entry, arguing that both countries harbour Kurdish "terrorist organisations".

For Ankara, Kurdish formations such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militias - YPG and YPJ - are considered terrorist organisations. Even the pro-Kurdish Turkish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is heavily harassed by Erdogan's government.

REUTERS/RODI SAID - Combatientes kurdas de la Unidad de Protección de la Mujer (YPJ) participan en un desfile militar mientras celebran la victoria sobre el Daesh, en Qamishli, Siria 28 de marzo de 2019

In order to combat Kurdish forces, Ankara has carried out several incursions into northern Syria in recent years. In fact, the Turkish army is preparing for an upcoming military operation to create "safe zones" of up to 30 kilometres.

For years, Finland and Sweden have been a key destination for asylum seekers from all over the world, and especially for Kurds. Both countries have a large Kurdish community, although, like Turkey, they consider the PKK a terrorist organisation. However, neither the PYD nor its armed groups - US allies in northern Syria - are classified as terrorists in the Nordic countries

AFP/DELIL SOULEIMAN

Helsinki and Stockholm's support for certain Kurdish organisations was the main reason for Erdogan's initial rejection of both nations' NATO membership. However, after several hours of negotiations during the Madrid summit, the parties involved were able to reach a tripartite agreement in which Turkey, in the president's words, has achieved a "diplomatic victory"

Ankara lifted its blockade, while the Finnish and Swedish governments pledged not to support the Kurdish groups PKK and PYD. They have also pledged not to support the Islamist network of the cleric Fethullah Gülen (FETÖ), accused of organising a coup attempt in 2016. Turkey also considers this organisation a terrorist organisation.

REUTERS/CHARLES MOSTOLLER  -   El clérigo turco Fethullah Gülen

"In the framework of the new agreement, we will ask Finland to extradite six PKK members and six Fetö members, and Sweden to extradite ten Fetö members and eleven PKK members," announced Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu. Erdogan, on the other hand, has called for the extradition of 73 "terrorists", although he assured that this is "just the beginning". The Turkish leader also warned that if the two countries do not comply with what has been agreed, Ankara will once again block the entry of Finland and Sweden.

"First they have to keep their promises. When they do, we will send the signed memorandum for ratification in parliament, but if they don't, it won't be possible," Erdogan declared during a press conference in Madrid. The president also indicated that they will "closely monitor the implementation of the pledges" and "take measures accordingly".

"This is not a quick process. They know that the PKK and the YPG have to be eliminated. They have to change their laws for this and steps have to be taken," he added, recalling that North Macedonia joined the Alliance in 2020 after years on the doorstep.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has assured Reuters that all extraditions will continue to "follow Swedish and international law". According to Anadolu, Andersson has also indicated that her country will cooperate with Turkey in the extradition of suspected criminals in accordance with international law.

Kurds in Sweden raise their voices: "Today is a black day in the history of Swedish politics"

In the wake of the agreement reached at the Madrid summit, fears have been raised about extraditions within the Kurdish diaspora in NATO countries, especially in Sweden, where approximately 150,000 live.

"Today is a black day in the history of Swedish politics," lamented Amineh Kakabeveh, a member of the Swedish parliament. "We are negotiating with a regime that does not respect freedom of expression or the rights of minority groups," she told SVT Nyheter. Kakabeveh denounced Sweden and Finland for giving in to Erdogan in exchange for NATO membership. "The rights of the Kurds have been traded", she remarked.

Kakabeveh's stance is shared by other Kurds living in Sweden, such as Osman Aytar, a professor of social work at Malardalen University in eastern Sweden. Aytar, who arrived in the Nordic country in the 1990s fleeing Turkey, told Reuters that "the Kurds have been betrayed many times in history".

After the pact, the Kurds no longer feel safe in Sweden. "We are worried that the Kurds will become victims of politics," Ahmed Karamus, Swedish co-chairman of the Kurdistan National Congress, told the news agency.

Similarly, Ridvan Altun, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Society Centre, told Al Monitor. "As a Kurd and a Swedish citizen, I am deeply concerned," he admits.

PHOTO/NATO SUMMIT  -   El secretario general de la OTAN, Jens Stoltenberg, auspicia la firma del memorando tripartito entre el presidente turco, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, el presidente finlandés, Sauli Niinistö, y la primera ministra sueca Magdalena Andersson por el que Turquía aprueba la solicitud de adhesión de Suecia y Finlandia en la Alianza Atlántica, Cumbre de la OTAN en Madrid, 29 de junio de 2022
Ankara closer to getting its hands on F-16 fighter jets

The end of the blockade on the entry of Finland and Sweden also allows Turkey to improve its relations with the United States after several years of tensions. The height of these disagreements came after Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 defence system. This purchase provoked Washington's anger and Turkey's subsequent expulsion from the F-35 procurement programme. 

AFP/ADEM ALTAN  -   F16 de las fuerzas aéreas turcas

However, with this NATO-strengthening deal, Erdogan hopes to soon acquire F-16 fighters in order to modernise his air force. "Biden is confident on this issue. I hope we can reach an agreement that consolidates our friendship," declared Erdogan, who has also confirmed a trip to the United States by a Turkish delegation to address the issue, according to Europa Press. 

US President Joe Biden has responded positively to the Turkish leader's aspirations, assuring that Washington supports the sale of these fighter jets to Ankara. "But I need congressional approval, and I think we can get it," Biden was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Biden also denied that Washington's support for the sale of the fighter jets to Turkey was in response to Erdogan's decision to lift the veto on Finland and Sweden, as suggested by analysts and pundits. 

"Biden's emphasis on the US sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey a day after lifting Turkey's veto on Finland and Sweden's NATO membership is tangible evidence of the undeclared deal," explains Al-Arab.

What is undeniable, however, is the Turkish leader's victory after this summit. Erdogan, taking advantage of the current situation in Europe and the threat posed by Russia to countries in the region, has succeeded in achieving key objectives related to his security and defence interests.

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