Turkey’s strictness towards the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO: reasons and objectives

Turkey’s strictness towards the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO: reasons and objectives
Turkey’s strictness towards the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO: reasons and objectives

A series of events accumulated, the latest of which was the burning of a copy of the Qur’an in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, to push Turkey to harden its position rejecting Sweden and Finland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and to cancel scheduled meetings with the two countries. Although this incident justifies Ankara’s official position, there are internal and external reasons behind Turkish militancy, especially with Turkey entering the period of parliamentary and presidential elections, so that this file turns into an additional card that various parties, especially the government, are trying to exploit to strengthen their positions.

Developments provoke Turkey

The most prominent developments that provoked the Turkish government began on January 12, when the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Swedish ambassador to Ankara, Staffan Herstrom, and handed him a protest note against the backdrop of demonstrations by supporters of the PKK in Stockholm that insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Accounts supporting the “PKK” published a video clip showing a puppet hanging from its feet depicting the Turkish president on a pillar near the historic municipal building, and appending the video clip with threatening phrases in the Turkish language targeting Ankara and Erdogan.

The incident was followed one day by the organization of other demonstrations by supporters of the “Kurdistan” against Sweden’s accession to NATO, and the occasion was used to insult Erdogan. The latest incident was last Saturday, when the Swedish authorities allowed the leader of the far-right “hard line” party, Rasmus Paludan, to burn a copy of the Qur’an near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, under strict police protection.

Turkey canceled a meeting of the tripartite coordination mechanism that was scheduled for next February

Because of the recent events, Turkey was not content with condemnation, but rather tried to dissuade the Swedish government from allowing abuse of the Qur’an, but these efforts did not succeed, which prompted Ankara to take a series of measures, represented by canceling the visit of the Swedish Parliament Speaker Andreas Norlin to Ankara, and later canceling the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Pal Johnson. .

This was followed by the announcement, last Tuesday, of the cancellation of the meeting of the tripartite coordination mechanism that brings together Turkey, Sweden and Finland, which is discussing the accession of the latter two to NATO, in implementation of an agreement signed between the three countries last summer. Turkish media reported that the coordination meeting, which was scheduled for next February, was postponed indefinitely.

The Turkish position was followed by an increase in the intensity and tone of statements by all political parties in Turkey, especially in the case of insulting the Qur’an, including the opposition parties. But Erdogan’s statement was more severe and carried a threat to Sweden in particular, as Erdogan said in a speech after a government meeting last Monday, “If you do not respect the religious beliefs of Turkey or Muslims, do not wait for any support regarding your membership in NATO, this ugly act is An insult against all those who respect people’s basic rights and freedoms, especially Muslims.”

He added, “The Holy Qur’an will never be harmed if a copy of it is burned by one of the remains of the Crusaders, and whoever caused such disgrace in front of the Turkish embassy should not expect any bounty from Ankara regarding requests for membership in NATO, and if Sweden loves so much members of the terrorist organization.” and the enemies of Islam, so we advise her to turn to them in her defense.”

For its part, the Swedish government commented on what happened by its President, Olf Christerson, by saying last Tuesday, “Sweden is facing the most serious security problem after World War II, and some do not realize the importance of its accession to NATO. The provocateurs are trying to obstruct Sweden’s membership and spoil its relations with other countries.” He stressed his country’s desire to return to dialogue with Turkey regarding joining NATO.

Prior to the burning of a copy of the Qur’an in Stockholm, a number of developments were hindering the talks between the three countries, including the refusal of Sweden and Finland to extradite wanted persons from the “PKK” and the “Service” group to Turkey, and the issuance of judicial decisions preventing that. In addition, the failure to implement pledges to restrict the work of organizations that Ankara has reservations about in propaganda, fund-raising and providing fighters.


Paper in the electoral struggle

It is certain that the issue of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, and Turkey’s position on it and its demands, constitute one of the electoral cards in the hands of the ruling Justice and Development Party, especially since the issue of joining NATO requires the approval of Parliament. The government seeks to preserve the voting bloc of conservatives and nationalists, and sees in this issue an opportunity to launch positions and statements in it and achieve more populism in this important period, which is a crossroads before the elections that will take place on May 14th.


Yesterday, the Finnish Ministry of Defense announced that it had granted an authorization to export military equipment to Turkey

However, in a remarkable development yesterday, the Finnish Ministry of Defense announced that it had granted an authorization to export military equipment to Turkey after suspending its export since the fall of 2019, against the backdrop of Turkey’s launch of a military operation in Syria. The resumption of licenses for the export of military equipment is one of the conditions set by Ankara to give the green light to Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

Commenting on these developments, Samir Salha, a professor of international relations at Kocaeli University, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, “The strictness in Turkey’s position is linked to its insistence for some time on Sweden and Finland to speed up the dialogue process and deal positively with the tripartite memorandum of understanding and the items contained therein. That there is delay and delay in its implementation, which is the main reason for what brought matters to tension.

He added, “Then the demonstrations came in front of the Turkish embassy building and an attempt to offend the person of President Erdogan, and the Swedish reactions by ignoring Ankara’s demands, which angered the latter. There were also negative attitudes from the Swedish judiciary and political leaders towards Ankara’s demands for demonstrations, then the last incident (insulting the Qur’an) came. And it was the straw that broke the camel’s back in relations, which prompted Ankara to decide to freeze the negotiations.

Salha pointed out that “there was a process of political and popular alignment inside Turkey behind the position of the Justice and Development Party and the freezing of negotiations, because the ranks of the government, the opposition, religious leaders and civil society organizations all criticized what happened in Sweden and called for escalatory positions against these events.”

He concluded by saying, “The American role exists, and the US State Department spokesman said that Washington is sticking to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, and described what happened in Sweden as an act of incitement, which means that the United States may enter the mediation line.” However, he ruled out that things would end easily, “Since Ankara has frozen the negotiations, this requires time until new positions of the Swedish government emerge, so the ball is in Sweden’s court.”

For his part, journalist Yusuf Saeed Oglu told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that “Sweden and Finland did not comply with the Turkish demands according to the signed memorandum of understanding, especially Stockholm, whose officials had positions and statements in favor of responding to the Turkish requirements, but what happened was all against the demands of Turkey.” Ankara”.

He pointed out that “the government’s position has become clear from Sweden and Finland, and at all levels, as there is a Turkish benefit from this position, especially at the domestic level,” explaining that “any progress within the framework of extraditing the wanted persons will show the strength and validity of the Turkish government’s position, just as any rejection To Ankara’s demands, the government will also appear as the rightful party that rejects the two countries’ accession to NATO as long as they do not implement what they pledged to do.

“All of this has a negative impact on the government’s supporters,” he added. Regarding the Swedish positions, he pointed out that “they may also be related to the Turkish elections, as their results can give a clearer picture regarding the continuation of dialogue with the current government in the event that it wins and continues to rule, or waiting for the emergence of a new government with the results of the elections.”

And he believed that “any internal and external developments in Turkey have become directly linked to the parliamentary and presidential elections, and the attempt of political parties to achieve greater popularity with voters,” considering that “the issue of Sweden and Finland has become among the international cards in the political conflict in Turkey.”



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