Turkey is once again jeopardising Swedish accession to NATO over extradition of individuals linked to the Gülen movement from Sweden. On Wednesday Hulusi Akar, the Turkish defence minister stated that “There are commitments signed by Sweden and Finland … they must be fulfilled … the memorandum is a beginning, not an end. After these are done, the Turkish parliament will make its decision [on NATO accession]. We are also trying to help Sweden and Finland“.
Mr Akar’s comments follow the Swedish government’s decision not to extradite to Turkey four individuals linked to the US based cleric Fethullah Gülen, after their removal was blocked by the Swedish supreme court in July last year. A memorandum signed on 28 June 2022 between the two countries agreed that Turkey would remove its veto on Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO on the basis that both countries “address Turkiye’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly”.
Since then, the Swedish supreme court has blocked the extradition of four individuals in July 2022 and of Turkish journalist Bulent Kenes in December. The Swedish government is legally bound to follow the decision of the court on these matters. Turkey argues that this is in breach of the memorandum and so have threatened to once again block the country from joining NATO.
The Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson responded bullishly on Sunday, saying that “Turkey confirms that we have done what we said we would do, but also says that they want things that we cannot or do not want to give them”. However, he tempered his comments on Wednesday claiming his previous statement had been misunderstood and that “We are doing exactly what we promised to do, that is not least in the field of fighting terrorism …. I think that has been one of the core tasks — to strengthen the Swedish legislation on counterterrorism, recognizing the fact that activities on Swedish soil can be dangerous for other countries, can be aimed at others countries, and also recognizing the fact that Turkey has been one of the countries hurt the most by terrorism.”
Many Turkish extradition requests for people linked to Fetullah Gülen have been dismissed as politically motivated in foreign courts. While developments since the MOU was signed may have allayed some concerns that Ankara would prioritise its domestic political motives over Western security arrangements, the continued threat to Swedish NATO membership by the Turkish government keeps this risk very much alive.