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Finland FM disagrees with Turkiye on YPG terrorism status, despite counter-terrorism agreement

May 10, 2023 at 8:52 pm

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto in Ankara, Turkiye on 8 February 2022 [Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency]

Finland has clarified that it does not share Turkiye’s view that the Syrian-Kurdish militant group, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), are part of a terrorist organisation, two months after Ankara approved Helsinki’s entrance into the NATO alliance.

In an interview with the German Tagesspiegel newspaper yesterday, Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, complained that “Ankara wants to expand the terrorism label also to other groups” beside the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and United States.

According to Turkiye, the YPG – the Kurdish militia which operates in north-east Syria and is backed by the US and European nations – is the PKK’s Syrian branch, a stance which western countries have long refused to agree with. “We do not share the view that the YPG is a terrorist organisation, as Turkiye says,” Haavisto clarified.

Following Russia’s launch of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Finland and Sweden broke their long-standing stance of regional neutrality by opting to join the NATO military alliance to protect themselves from Moscow.

OPINION: Using NATO membership as leverage, Turkiye is giving the EU a taste of its own medicine

Ankara refused to accept their applications, insisting that they first meet its conditions of implementing measures against the PKK’s influences and figures within their countries.

Then, in June last year, all three countries signed a trilateral agreement for Stockholm and Helsinki to pass and enforce counter-terrorism laws, extradite terrorism-affiliated figures and dissidents and to lifting of arms embargoes off Turkiye. The two countries implemented most of those conditions, at least on paper, but Sweden refused to comply with some of Ankara’s demands. As a result, the Turkish government ratified only Finland’s NATO membership this year.

Haavisto stated that, despite Finland having lifted its arms embargo on Turkiye, “we decide which weapons we supply. It’s the same with deportations. We cooperate with Turkiye but decide under the rule of law which we extradite.”

His comments are likely set to dismay many in Ankara, with many Turkish analysts and officials viewing the deal as also essentially requiring both Nordic nations to show full solidarity and cooperation in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as defined by Turkiye.