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Sweden,Finland in Turkey for NATO Talks05/25 06:13


   ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Senior officials from Sweden and Finland met with 
Turkish counterparts in Ankara on Wednesday in an effort to overcome Turkey's 
strong objections to the Nordic nations' bids to join NATO.

   Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join NATO last 
week. The move represents one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of 
Russia's war in Ukraine and could rewrite Europe's security map.

   Turkey has said it opposes the countries' membership in the Western military 
alliance, citing grievances with Sweden's -- and a to a lesser extent Finland's 
-- perceived support of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and other 
entities that Turkey views as security threats.

   The PKK, which is listed as a terror organization by several of Turkey's 
allies, has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, a conflict that has 
cost the lives of tens of thousands people.

   The Turkish government also accuses Finland and Sweden of imposing arms 
exports restrictions on Turkey and refusing to extradite suspected "terrorists."

   Turkey's objections have dampened Stockholm's and Helsinki's hopes for 
joining NATO quickly amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine and put the 
trans-Atlantic alliance's credibility at stake. All 30 NATO members must agree 
on admitting new members.

   The Swedish and Finnish delegations met with President Recep Tayyip 
Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat 
Onal. The Swedish delegation was led by state secretary Oscar Stenstrom, while 
Jukka Salovaara, the foreign ministry undersecretary, headed up the Finnish 
delegation, Turkish officials have said.

   Turkey this week listed five "concrete assurances" it was demanding from 
Sweden, including what it said was "termination of political support for 
terrorism," an "elimination of the source of terrorism financing," and the 
"cessation of arms support" to the banned PKK and a Syrian Kurdish militia 
group affiliated with it.

   The demands also called for the lifting of arms sanctions against Turkey and 
global cooperation against terrorism.

   Turkey said that it has requested the extradition of Kurdish militants and 
other suspects since 2017 but hasn't received a positive response from 
Stockholm. The Turkish government claimed Sweden had decided to provide $376 
million to support the Kurdish militants in 2023 and that it had provided them 
with military equipment, including anti-tank weapons and drones.

   Sweden has denied providing any "financial assistance or military support" 
to Kurdish groups or entities in Syria.

   "Sweden is a major humanitarian donor to the Syria crisis through global 
allocations to humanitarian actors," Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the 
Aftonbladet newspaper.

   "Cooperation in northeastern Syria is carried out primarily through the 
United Nations and international organizations," she said. "Sweden doesn't 
provide targeted support to Syrian Kurds or to the political or military 
structures in northeastern Syria, but the population in these areas is, of 
course, taking part in these aid projects."

   Speaking Tuesday before a meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, 
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russia had left Sweden and 
Finland "no choice" but to join NATO.

   She said Germany would support the two countries' membership, calling it "a 
real gain" for the military alliance.

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