Turkey Will Not Support Sweden’s NATO Application Until It Cracks Down on Kurdish Advocacy Groups

On January 13, 2023, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Sweden that Turkey will not support its NATO membership application unless it takes strong measures to crack down the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an entity that is recognized as a terrorist organization in Turkey.

Cavusoglu’s remarks came after a pro-PKK rally that was held in Stockholm on January 12, where demonstrators made insulting statements directed towards Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A puppet in Erdogan’s image was hung upside down on a pole in front of the town hall that pro-PKK demonstrators were rallying around. 

“The PKK is laying a mine for Sweden’s membership in NATO. If the Swedish government does not respond appropriately to such actions, we will not provide the answer that Sweden is waiting for regarding its NATO membership bid. That’s how open and clear it is. Sweden must make its choice,” Cavusoglu said on a TRT TV broadcast.

Cavusoglu called attention to how Turkey expected Sweden to follow through with its memorandum on fighting terrorist organizations, which Turkey demands that Sweden comply with if it wants its NATO membership bid approved. This memo was signed last June at a NATO summit in Madrid. 

Turkish authorities took PKK supporters’ actions to task. Sweden’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on January 12 and received a protest over the incident. Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop scrapped a January 17 visit to Ankara that the head of the Swedish parliament was originally slated to make. At this meeting, there was a plan to discuss Sweden’s membership in NATO.

Turkey is no innocent actor on the world stage. Like many nations with strong civilizational pasts, it has bold geopolitical ambitions that will ruffle many feathers. 

On the issue of NATO expansion here, Turkey is in the right. Even if it opposes Sweden’s and Finland’s bids for matters of self-interest, Turkey has become an unlikely hero by denying NATO another opportunity to stoke geopolitical instability. 

Hopefully, Turkey holds the line here and capsizes the two Nordic countries NATO bids. For once, Turkey is doing something right.

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