ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey on Monday welcomed Sweden’s extradition of a convicted member of an outlawed militant group, calling it a “start” that showed Stockholm's sincerity in assuaging Turkey's security concerns.
NATO-member Turkey has been holding up bids by Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance, pressing for the two Nordic countries to crackdown on groups it considers to be terrorists organizations and extradite suspects wanted in Turkey.
On Saturday, Sweden deported an unnamed man who fled there after being convicted by a Turkish court of membership in an armed organization in 2015. Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency identified the man as Mahmut Tat who had been sentenced to more than six years in prison.
“We see this as a start showing (Sweden’s) sincerity and good will,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said in an interview with state-run TRT television. “God willing, (the extraditions) will continue with the same sincerity.”
Tat was convicted of being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has led a decades-long separatist insurgency in Turkey. The group is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Swedish media said the man had lived in the west of the country where he worked in the restaurant industry.
Meanwhile, Finland’s government met on Monday morning to reach a final agreement on its NATO membership bill, to be presented to Parliament later in the day.
The center-left coalition wants the legislature to begin considering the decision on joining NATO – even though Finland’s membership in the military alliance must still be ratified by Hungary and Turkey. Hungary is expected to do so in early February, but Turkey has still not announced when the matter will be decided on.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a news conference after the meeting that even without the final approvals and full membership, Finland can participate in all NATO activities except actual decision-making.
He stressed that Finland’s NATO membership would not change its basic long-term foreign policy.