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Though Sweden and Finland "capitulated" to Erdogan, he can still block their NATO bid

Nicosia: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's blackmail blocking Sweden and Finland's bid to join NATO proved to be successful as the two Nordic countries, on June 28, gave in to Turkey's demands and pledged to address its security concerns about the activities of Kurdish groups and avoid arms embargoes. In return, Ankara unblocked the whole process which had caused much diplomatic tension and wrangling in the West for more than 40 days.

However, the carefully drafted trilateral deal that reached the NATO summit in Madrid can be interpreted in different ways by the parties. It was written in a way that includes "constructive ambiguities" allowing each side to say that it achieved its basic aim. What remains to be seen, is how this deal will be implemented in a way that will be satisfactory to the three signatories.

Despite the deal, Erdogan made it clear that Turkey could block once again the accession of Sweeden and Finland by not submitting it to the Turkish Parliament for ratification if it is not satisfied with the way Sweden and Finland implement the agreement.

The continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine and the security fears it created made Sweden and Finland- two countries that remained neutral and stayed out of NATO for more than 70 years - abandon their neutrality and last May submit applications to join the alliance.

Erdogan saw this application to join NATO as a golden opportunity to blackmail the two Nordic countries, which were often against his repressive policies and allowed Kurdish organizations, which Ankara sees as "terrorists", to operate freely on their soil and even imposed an arms embargo on Ankara for its cross-border operation in northeast Syria.

Under the deal reached, Sweden and Finland have agreed to "address Turkey's pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly." Furthermore, the two Nordic countries promised not to provide support for the YPG/PYD (the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party -PKK- that was instrumental in defeating the Islamic State in Syria) as well as to members of the Fetullah Gulen organization (FETO), which Erdogan accuses of organizing the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

As Erdogan was clearly satisfied with the trilateral deal, he withdrew his opposition, and the stalled discussions over accession restarted. The government-controlled media in Turkey have started praising Erdogan as "a hero who defies the world."

US President Joe Biden sat down with Erdogan at the summit and thanked him for his handling of the situation. The Biden administration said it backed the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. It is clear, however, that Congress will have a final say on the deal, as many members of Congress oppose it because Turkey bought the S-400 missile system from Russia.

Ann Linde, the Swedish Foreign Minister, trying to allay the grave concerns of the Kurdish minority of more than 100,000 people and the left-wing parties in her country, stressed that the agreement reached with Turkey does not require Sweden to change its domestic law on extradition or its approach to specific extradition requests that are handled by an independent judiciary. "We did not give in to Erdogan. There is no reason for Kurds to think that their human rights or democratic rights are at risk," she said.

Finnish President Sauli Niisto stressed that Finland did not declare the YPG/PYD and FETO as terrorist organizations and added that Helsinki could continue providing "humanitarian aid" to the YPG.

Later, Erdogan said that Sweden promised to update the list of 73 people Ankara wants to be extradited.
As the NATO membership process would take about eight months - unless expedited due to the Ukraine crisis - the Turkish President said that he will decide if the two Nordic countries have complied with the trilateral deal and "if they don't fulfil these obligations, then, of course, there is no way we would send it to our Parliament (for ratification)."

Sweden's Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, clarifying Stockholm's position on extraditions, said: "Non-Swedish citizens can be extradited at the request of other countries, but only if it is compatible with Swedish law and the European Convention. It is the Supreme Court that makes that determination and has the right to veto. That order is fixed."

Amineh Kakabaveh, a Kurdish rebel fighter who became a member of the Swedish Parliament described the deal with Turkey as "a sad and cynical policy" and said she might launch a vote of no-confidence against Foreign Minister Linde.

Kakabaveh holds extraordinary leverage because the Swedish government depends on her vote for its one-seat majority in Parliament. It was her tie-breaking vote in November 2021 that allowed the coalition government to survive a non-confidence vote.

The fact that Sweden caved in to Erdogan's demands is expected to cost the Swedish Social Democrats dearly, as the vociferous Kurdish minority in the country believes that the Swedish government has thrown them under the bus and intends to punish them at the forthcoming elections.

According to some press reports, the Biden Administration and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg exercised strong pressure on the Swedish government to reach a compromise with Turkey.

The fact that the West is ready to make concessions on matters of principle just to secure the agreement of Turkey, a rogue NATO member, leaves a bitter aftertaste and makes one wonder if the beautiful words about the protection of democracy and freedom of opinion are just empty words. The West capitulated to Ankara and Erdogan scored a victory.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, described the trilateral agreement as "a big win for Erdogan" and added: "He created a crisis. Biden had to call him to resolve the crisis. And Erdogan has demonstrated to Biden that if Biden calls Erdogan, deals can be made. This is likely to change Biden's mentality toward Turkey." (ANI)

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