Turkey receives important concessions at NATO summit

By Martin Makaryan

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last week a breakthrough in the negotiations between Turkey and Sweden which will pave the way for Sweden to join the alliance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose transactional diplomacy over the last few years has increased Turkey’s geopolitical influence, agreed to lift his veto over Sweden’s NATO bid.

Erdoğan had used the veto on enlarging the alliance to Finland and Sweden over a demand for a tougher policy on terrorism and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK)—Kurdish militants that Ankara considers terrorists. Turkey had allowed Finland to join earlier, but maintained that Sweden was not complying with Ankara’s demands.

Accordingly, Sweden acquiesced to the Turkish demands over the harboring of Kurdish “terrorists,” as well as committed to increase security cooperation in a bilateral format. This concession immediately raised concerns over the fate of asylum seekers in Sweden who may now be subject to extradition to Turkey under the deal. Additionally, NATO pledged to ramp up its counterterrorism efforts by establishing a new office of a Special Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism.

A day after, the United States announced that it will move forward with transferring F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. Ankara had requested the jets after being removed from the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program—Washington’s response to Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 anti-missile systems in 2019.

It is unclear whether the Biden administration will be able to move forward with the sale of F-16s as the decision seems to encounter congressional opposition in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The seeming reset in the relationship between the West and Turkey comes after a period of confrontational policies and rhetoric.

Erdoğan’s moves in NATO received praise from Western leaders, including from U.S. President Joe Biden. The President of European Council Charles Michel announced that the European Union will bring the EU-Turkey dialogue to “the forefront” and “re-energise” the relationship.

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