BY DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
Türkiye has every right to protect itself from terrorist attacks, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson declared Thursday.
“It must be admitted Türkiye is a country that has been subjected to terrorist attacks and has the right to protect itself against them,” Kristersson said at the Swedish parliament, Riksdag, as he answered a question posed by Green Party spokesperson Marta Stenevi about Ankara’s latest counterterrorism move Operation Claw-Sword against the PKK/YPG in northern Syria and Iraq.
Kristersson argued the situation in the region was “very complicated” and urged all parties to show “restraint” in order to avoid exposing civilian elements to military danger. “There is the fight against the terrorist group Daesh on one hand, and Türkiye’s right to self-defense on the other; these must be recognized,” he noted.
The Swedish leader also said other nations must understand Türkiye’s predicament: “The rest of the world has reason to accept that terrorist attacks on Türkiye are just as bad for Türkiye as terrorist attacks on other countries are for them.”
He went on to say that the agreement Stockholm signed with Ankara for Türkiye’s ratification of Sweden’s application to join NATO means Sweden must “intensify its efforts to combat terrorism.”
“We have determined that Sweden should not be a safe haven for people who in various ways participate in terrorism or finance terrorism-related activities because they target not Sweden but Türkiye,” the prime minister stressed.
Kristersson’s sentiments were echoed throughout this week by other officials, including Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Washington’s National Security Council coordinator John Kirby, and even a former U.S. envoy to Ankara.
All argued Türkiye was “justified” in its response to terrorist attacks on its soil.
On Nov. 20, Ankara launched Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the PKK/YPG terrorist group, which holds illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on Türkiye.
The airstrike followed the Nov. 13 terrorist attack on Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Street that killed six people and left 81 injured, for which Türkiye held the PKK responsible.
The PKK, along with its Syrian offshoot the YPG, retaliated against the operation hours later in a series of rocket attacks on Türkiye’s southeastern provinces Kilis and Gaziantep bordering northern Syria, killing two and wounding 14 people, including eight security personnel.
On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed Türkiye was “more determined than ever” to secure its Syrian border from YPG attacks and insisted that a ground operation would start “at the most convenient time.”
Türkiye currently stands at odds with Sweden and Finland over their application to join NATO. The two countries abandoned their long-held policy of nonalignment and applied to join the military alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine. But Ankara has blocked their applications due to the two Nordic countries’ tolerance and even support of terrorist groups.
Sweden especially has been taking steps to get in Türkiye’s good graces since the sides struck a deal in June that requires them to not provide support to the PKK and its offshoots, or the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye.
Most recently, the Swedish parliament passed a constitutional amendment that will make it possible to introduce new laws to “limit freedom of association when it comes to associations that engage in or support terrorism” and enable “wider criminalization of participation in a terrorist organization or a ban against a terrorist organization.”
The change will enter into force on Jan. 1.