Sweden’s NATO bid facing dead end

Stockholm is not keen on a quid pro quo with Turkey

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AFP) — Sweden’s bid for North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership is facing a dead end because Ankara’s demands to Stockholm to hand over Kurdish activists and prevent rallies attacking Turkey’s leadership have strained ties.

The chances of this changing after Turkey’s parliamentary elections due in mid-May are uncertain, Paul Levin, director of Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies, said.

“We can now probably forget Turkish ratification before the elections, which seem to be scheduled for 14 May,” Levin told AFP.

“What happens after that depends in part on who wins.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s objections to Sweden’s NATO membership rest largely on Stockholm’s refusal to extradite Turkish nationals Ankara wants to prosecute for “terrorism.”

And Erdogan is running for reelection.

In December, Sweden extradited a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK to Turkey. He had been convicted in a Turkish court and denied asylum in Sweden.

Erdogan wants more action from Stockholm against the PKK, listed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

“On one hand, there is a Turkish president who has jailed thousands over alleged insults and who wants to divert attention from a poor economy in the months before an election,” Levin said.

“On the other hand, there are groups in Sweden who are against NATO membership and PKK supporters worried about the government’s pledges to go after” them, he said.

Levin said these PKK supporters had realized they could provoke Erdogan “by insulting him and thereby stall the accession process.”

Protests in Sweden

A protest by a far-right politician in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday — authorized by the police — has further strained relations.

Rasmus Paludan is a Swedish-Danish activist who has already been convicted for racist abuse.

He provoked rioting in Sweden last year when he went on a tour of the country and publicly burned copies of the Koran.

On Saturday, he burned another copy of the Muslim holy book after a speech of almost an hour denouncing Islam.

Police based their decision to authorize the protest on the basis of Sweden’s liberal constitution, which protects the right to demonstrate.

Ankara summoned Sweden’s ambassador to register its outrage, then cancelled a visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson that had been scheduled for next Friday in Ankara — a rare high-level meeting.

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