'Hand over your terrorists': Turkey ramps up pressure on NATO hopefuls Sweden and Finland

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By Euronews  with AFP
Erdogan delivers a speech at the International Ombudsman Conference at the presidential complex in Ankara, Turkey, on January 11, 2023
Erdogan delivers a speech at the International Ombudsman Conference at the presidential complex in Ankara, Turkey, on January 11, 2023   -   Copyright  ADEM ALTAN/AFP or licensors

Sweden and Finland must deport some 130 "terrorists" to Turkey before Ankara will approve their bids to join NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Turkey has blocked bids by the two Nordic states to join the western military alliance since they applied in May. Under NATO rules, all 30 members must agree before a new one can be admitted. 

Turkey wants Sweden and Finland to meet several political demands, including extraditing Kurds it considers terrorists and claims are linked to the PKK, critics of Erdogan and lifting arms export bans on Ankara. 

Hungary is also yet to endorse their NATO applications.

"We said look, so if you don't hand over your terrorists to us, we can't pass it [approval of the NATO application] through the parliament anyway," Erdogan said in comments late on Sunday.

"For this to pass the parliament, first of all, you have to hand more than 100, around 130 of these terrorists to us." 

Critics have warned against making political concessions to Turkey, saying any deportations would be legally dubious and infringe on the human rights of those concerned, as well as each country's sovereignty. 

In January, Sweden said Turkey had demands it could not -- and would not -- meet. 

Finnish politicians interpreted Erdogan's comments as an angry reaction to an incident in Stockholm last week in which an effigy of the Turkish leader was strung up during a small protest by a Kurdish group. 

"It's time for Erdogan to resign before he ends up hanged in Taksim", read the caption of a video, ireferring to the main square of Istanbul, Turkey's capital. 

"This must have been a reaction, I believe, to the events of the past days," Finland's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told public broadcaster YLE.

HANDOUT/AFP or licensors
AFP Photo / Official Twitter Account of Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava.HANDOUT/AFP or licensors

Haavisto said he was not aware of any new official demands from Turkey.

In response to the incident in Stockholm, Turkey cancelled a planned visit to Ankara of the Swedish speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlen, who instead came to Helsinki on Monday.

"We stress that in Finland and in Sweden we have freedom of expression. We cannot control it," the speaker of the Finnish parliament, Matti Vanhanen, told reporters at a joint news conference with Norlen.

Separately on Monday Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson said that his country was in a "good position" to secure Turkey's ratification of its NATO bid.

Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Saturday that time was running out for Turkey's parliament to ratify the bids before presidential and parliamentary elections expected in May.