BY DAILY SABAH
Despite its promises to Türkiye on tightening its fight against terrorism, Sweden has allowed a senior PKK-linked figure to defend the terrorist group on the state-owned broadcaster SVT.
Salih Muslim, one of the key leadership figures in PKK’s Syria affiliate YPG, said in a televised interview that Türkiye used the Istanbul terror attack as an excuse to attack the terrorist group’s areas in northern Syria.
He claimed that the terror attack on Beyoğlu’s Istiklal Street was carried out by the Daesh terror group, not the PKK’s Syrian branch, the YPG.
Early Sunday, Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian wing, the YPG, which have illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on Turkish soil. The country’s air operation followed a PKK/YPG terrorist attack on Nov. 13 on Istanbul’s crowded Istiklal Street that killed six people and left 81 injured. The ministry said the operation was carried out in line with the right of self-defense arising from Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said after the attack that the woman suspected of being behind the attack received her orders from YPG-controlled Ain al-Arab (Kobani).
Ambassador Staffan Herrstrom was summoned to the ministry in the capital Ankara after elements affiliated with the PKK terror group projected statements and photographs containing terrorist propaganda and insulting images against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the embassy’s chancellery building, the sources said.
Turkish officials conveyed Ankara’s condemnation of the act and its request for an investigation into the incident to Herrstrom, according to the sources.
They added that officials stressed, “our expectation that the perpetrators of this unacceptable act be identified, the necessary measures are enacted, and concrete steps are taken in light of the commitments in the Trilateral Memorandum.”
Ankara is not against the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated Tuesday but added that Türkiye expects them to fulfill their commitments under the NATO deal signed in June. Ankara expects the countries to cut ties with the terrorists and end their support to them, he said.
Supporters of the PKK terrorist group held a demonstration in Sweden’s capital on Sunday calling for an end to Türkiye’s counterterrorism operations in northern Syria and northern Iraq, near the Turkish border.
Supporters of the terrorist group gathered in Sergels Torg Square, demanding that Sweden impose an arms embargo on Türkiye and cancel the agreement reached this June on Sweden’s prospective NATO membership.
Carrying posters, banners and other items symbolizing the terror outfit, protestors called for Operation Claw-Sword to be stopped.
The changes would give greater opportunity to restrict freedom of association for groups engaged in terrorism – a key demand from Türkiye to approve Stockholm’s NATO membership bid.
It would also be possible to propose and decide on laws that ban terror groups or involve participation in a terror group’s criminal offenses.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden and Finland abandoned their long-held policy of nonalignment and applied to join the military alliance. But Türkiye has blocked Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership applications, accusing Stockholm in particular of being a haven for terrorists.
Stockholm and Helsinki struck a deal with Ankara in June, which requires them not to provide support to the PKK and its offshoots, or to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye. Ankara has also called for the extradition of terror suspects.
The amendment, which passed with 278 votes in Sweden’s 349-seat parliament, makes it possible to introduce new laws to “limit freedom of association when it comes to associations that engage in or support terrorism.”
According to the parliament’s standing committee on constitutional affairs, which recommended legislators approve the proposal, the law will enable “wider criminalization of participation in a terrorist organization or a ban against terrorist organization.”
Experts have said new legislation would make it easier to prosecute members of the PKK terror group, blacklisted by Ankara and most of its Western allies. The change will enter into force on Jan. 1.
During a visit to Ankara recently, Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson described the constitutional amendment as a “big step.”
“Sweden will take big steps by the end of the year and early next year that will give Swedish legal authorities more muscles to fight terrorism,” he said at a joint press conference with Erdoğan.
Turkish officials, including President Erdoğan, have warned that Türkiye will not give the nod to their memberships until the memorandum is implemented.
Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Türkiye in recent weeks to discuss the membership bids. In order for a country to join NATO, unanimous consent is required, which equals the approval of all 30 existing allied countries.
The tripartite memorandum between Finland, Sweden and Türkiye for NATO membership of the Nordic nations will be fulfilled, the Swedish foreign minister reiterated recently.
Türkiye will only ratify the NATO membership application of Sweden and Finland if they fulfill their responsibilities stated in the deal signed in June, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said.
Hungary and Türkiye are the only members of the alliance who have not yet cleared the accession. The Hungarian government has submitted the relevant legislation to parliament but it has not yet been tabled for debate and vote.