London, 26 May 2022 (dpa/MIA) – The Swedish government said it does not finance terrorism, as claimed by Ankara, which says this is preventing Turkey from backing the Nordic country’s bid to join NATO.
Sweden issued a statement describing its aid strategy to counter the Turkish government’s security concerns.
Finland and Sweden are applying to join NATO, ending their long-held neutral stance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine altered the European security situation.
However, new members must be agreed unanimously by the countries in the defence alliance, and Turkey is blocking Helsinki and Stockholm, saying both should halt propaganda and the financing of “terrorist organizations” such as the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish militia People’s Defence Units (YPG).
French President Emmanuel Macron urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone call on Thursday to respect the sovereign decisions of the two nations, the Élysée Palace said.
Erdogan, meanwhile, reiterated the claim that Finland and Sweden were supporting terrorist organizations and that this was not compatible with the collaborative spirit of NATO, the presidential office in Ankara said.
Turkish security forces often clash with the YPG along the border and in Syria. Ankara believes the group is linked to a wider insurgency.
The United States, by contrast, works closely with the YPG in Syria, considering it a key ally in its fight against the extremist militia Islamic State.
Sweden and Finland, among others, also imposed restrictions on arms exports to Turkey after a Turkish military offensive against the YPG in 2019, angering Ankara.
Sweden is a major donor to humanitarian actors responding to the Syrian crisis through global organizations, mainly the UN, that operate in the region, including in Turkey, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Sweden has a regional development cooperation strategy for the Syria crisis, which aims to support the Syrian people, as well as Syrian refugees and their host communities in neighbouring countries,” the ministry said in the statement issued late on Wednesday evening.
“Sweden does not give any financial aid or military support to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) or the YPG/YPJ,” the ministry statement said.
Sweden’s regional strategy received funding of 3.21 billion Swedish kroner ($376 million) between 2016 and 2023. “Syrian Kurds benefit from the support given to north-east Syria in particular, but Sweden does not give any targeted support to Syrian Kurds or to the political or military structures in north-east Syria.”
Around half of the sum funds projects supporting refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries, primarily Lebanon and Jordan.
Regarding support to Syria, Sweden’s government agency for development cooperation (SIDA) supports activities in all parts of the country where there are significant needs, the statement said.
Support for north-east Syria last year amounted to the equivalent of just under €9.5 million ($10.1 million), the ministry said.