Turkey’s foreign minister urged Sweden and the EU to make a clear distinction between terrorists and Kurdish people and to refrain from backing the PKK and its affiliates and ignoring its human rights violations.
“Why would you (European countries) support PKK, YPG?” asked Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Tuesday during a joint news conference with Swedish counterpart Ann Linde.
“This is yet another proof of Europe’s hypocritical stance toward terrorism,” he added.
“We expect more solid steps from Sweden in the fight against terrorism. PKK terrorist members engage in attacks on our citizens in the country, including on Kurdish people, and carry out forcible money collection,” he added, underlining strongly that none of these activities comply with the notion of freedom of speech and that those activities, including the financing of terrorism, are activities banned by international law.
There are more than 115,000 Turkish citizens in Sweden, the minister pointed out, saying that these prove a significant bridge between the two countries.
The PKK terror group continues using the European Union’s territory for propaganda, recruitment, fundraising and logistical support activities, according to a report by the EU’s law enforcement agency released this June.
Europol’s annual terrorism report, titled “European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2020,” suggested the PKK is actively engaged in propaganda activities as well as collecting money in European countries.
Turkey has long criticized European authorities for tolerating PKK activities in the country and has pressured them to take stricter measures against the propaganda, recruitment and fundraising activities of the group.
Upon Çavuşoğlu’s remarks on the fight against terrorism, Linde argued that Sweden is also contributing to international efforts in this manner and is part of the international coalition against Daesh just as Turkey is.
Saying that the PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by both Sweden and the EU, Linde stated: “However, other organizations such as the SDF are not listed as terrorist organizations. This organization has contributed to the fight against Daesh. We have to continue dialogue with them for the sake of stability and peace in Syria. We always reserve our right to meet with different actors in different issues.”
The SDF is a rebranded version of the PKK’s Syrian wing the YPG and with which the U.S. has partnered under the pretext of fighting Daesh.
Turkey had previously slammed Linde’s remarks against Ankara’s military operation in northeastern Syria in July while meeting via video link with members of the PYD/YPG/PKK terrorist organization. Linde also had previous meetings with the terrorist organization.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women and children.
“There are a range of issues not agreed on by Turkey and Sweden,” Linde said, reiterating that Sweden invites Turkey to withdraw from northern Syria.
“With whose authority are you asking Turkey to withdraw from Syria? Has the regime in Syria given Sweden or the EU such an authority? In every meeting, in the Sochi, Astana meetings as well as in every text, we underline Syria’s territorial integrity,” Çavuşoğlu responded.
“We do not want to divide Syria, but you tell Turkey to withdraw from Syria to support the PKK – which wants to divide Syria,” he added.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring, the third in a series of cross-border offensives in northern Syria targeting terrorists affiliated with Daesh and the YPG/PKK, on Oct. 9, 2019.
The operation, conducted in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international law and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, aimed to establish a terrorist-free safe zone for the return of Syrians to the area east of the Euphrates river, which is controlled by the U.S.-backed SDF.
“Why aren’t you asking Turkey to withdraw from Idlib or from the areas we cleared Daesh? Because if we withdraw from Idlib, another 3 million refugees would come to Turkey and to cross over to EU countries. Where do we have to withdraw from? From areas we cleared of the PKK,” he stated.
Çavuşoğlu also urged Sweden to make a clear distinction between terrorists and Kurdish people and that the PKK is not representative of all Kurds.
Çavuşoğlu also urged Sweden to listen to the oppression the minority groups in Syria underwent at the hand of the PKK. There are many Kurdish organizations besides the PKK, the minister pointed out.
Turkey’s top diplomat further suggested Sweden to listen to the minorities in Syria regarding their views on the PKK, “Please listen to the Arameans, the Assyrians, the Christians and let them explain what the SDF did to them. Listen to the Kurds in Syria, to those in Turkey that cannot go back to Syria.”
“We also would not want Sweden to embrace FETÖ members. Unfortunately, many FETÖ members requested asylum in Sweden and most of them were approved.”
He reminded the desecration of the Holy Quran by a far-right Danish group during an unauthorized demonstration in the capital of Sweden in early September, a move condemned by the Turkish Foreign ministry. Turkey urged countries to take concrete action to prevent growing anti-Muslim attacks.
Danish Hard Line (Stram Kurs) party members had sought permission from Swedish authorities to burn the Quran in Stockholm’s Rinkeby, Fittja, Alby, Husby and Upplansveby neighborhoods, where Turkish and Muslim immigrants live. However, Swedish police refused to grant them permission, but the far-right group went ahead and burned the Muslim holy book and broadcast it on social media outlets.
Çavuşoğlu stated that Turkey welcomed the precautions taken against these politicians by Swedish authorities as well as the prime minister’s statements in this regard.
“This is a sickness and as dangerous as terrorism,” the minister said referring to the rising far-right sentiment in the Western world.
Saying that Sweden always supported Turkey’s accession to the European Union, Çavuşoğlu stated that rightful criticism in this term was always welcomed while unfair criticism is not accepted.
Çavuşoğlu reaffirmed Turkey’s determination to pursue membership. He, however, said the EU needs to take serious decisions on many issues, including enlargement.
“Political obstructions need to be lifted,” he stressed.
Linde for her part stated that the EU desires to establish constructive relations with Turkey and that trade with Ankara is a significant issue for the bloc.
“The EU wants to revive its relations with Turkey. A new positive Turkey-EU agenda will be established,” she said, adding that Sweden welcomed the steps taken to decrease tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean with neighbor Greece on drilling activities and maritime zones.