Good effort, but could do better. The very first official visit of the new Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Tuesday November 8 in Ankara, was certainly appreciated in Turkey.
In front of the huge presidential palace, the red carpet (blue, actually) was rolled out, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged the “great advances” of the new copy presented by the Swedish conservative who came to power this autumn with the support of the extreme right. From now on, he affirms it: Turkey “sincerely wish” for Sweden to join NATO.
But as it stands, there is no question of lifting his veto. However, membership requires the unanimity of the 30 member states of the Atlantic Alliance. Only the Turkish and Hungarian parliaments are resisting. “I hope for a more positive image at the next meeting”, demanded Erdogan from the lectern of the joint press conference, alongside the Swedish leader. A new meeting should take place in a month. Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not seem to see his interest in an immediate green light, but in pursuing signs of firmness, when he is already campaigning for the 2023 presidential election.
The ground had however been well prepared, ahead of this first round of negotiations. Last week, the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, paved the way by going to Istanbul. Then Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström emphasized his distance from the Syrian-Kurdish PYD party and its YPG militia, which Turkey considers to be criminal organisations.
Sweden has also lifted its embargo on arms sales to Turkey. Finally, the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag, will vote on 16 November next on a constitutional change aimed at “restrict the freedom of association of groups engaged in terrorism”. This amendment should make it easier to initiate proceedings against members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Ankara’s sworn enemy.
Nevertheless, the pledges provided by Stockholm do not cover all the requirements of Erdogan’s regime. If the Swedish government is committed to strengthening its criminal arsenal, it remains evasive about the list of individuals that Ankara would like to extradite. It includes activists of the Kurdish cause, leftist opponents, journalists, supporters of the preacher Fethullah Gülen whom the Turkish government accuses of having fomented a coup attempt in 2016.
Erdogan did not hesitate to cite an individual case on Tuesday, November 8, when he stood alongside Ulf Kristersson. “A person is in Sweden, I will mention it by name: Bülent Kenes. It is of the utmost importance that it be returned to us. » Known for having written numerous negative articles on the Erdogan regime, this journalist in exile formally denies having participated in the failed putsch.
For the time being, Sweden has admitted having delivered four people to Turkey, without further details. For an extradition to take shape, the facts incriminated must be recognized both in Turkey and in Sweden. In this case, it will be up to the Swedish courts, and not the government, to establish the admissibility of the requests.