Sweden's new government will distance itself from the YPG, the PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian wing, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Saturday as Stockholm is seeking to win Türkiye’s approval to join NATO.
"I think it is important that there is a distance to this organization from the Swedish side," Billstrom told broadcaster Sveriges Radio after he was asked about the YPG's track record.
"We think there are doubts and problems regarding those who are damaging our relationship with Türkiye," he said.
Billstrom strongly criticized two Left Party politicians for waving PKK terrorist organization rags in the council hall. On Twitter, the minister wrote: “Politicians of the Left Party posing with PKK-standards in the Council Hall in Malmo. Serious and unacceptable. PKK is a terrorist organisation and this kind of behavior does not belong in a democracy.”
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the United States, Türkiye and the European Union.
While Sweden has in the past expressed support for the YPG, the country's new government appears to be changing that stance.
"There is too close a link between these organizations and the PKK, which is a terrorist organization listed by the EU," Billstrom said.
"The primary objective is Sweden's membership in NATO," he said.
Billström’s words come just as Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is due to travel to Ankara on Tuesday to convince President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to end his blockade of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in June, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine.
However, Türkiye voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.
For Sweden and Finland to become NATO members, their applications must be ratified by all 30 NATO members. So far, 28 have already done so – only Türkiye and Hungary have votes still pending.
A trilateral memorandum at the NATO Madrid summit signed among the countries in June stipulates that Finland and Sweden will not provide support to terrorist group PKK's Syrian offshoots, the YPG, or the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ) – the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye.
Sweden and Finland agreed earlier this summer to assure Türkiye of their support against security risks.
Most recently, Kristersson said that the Swedish government will redouble efforts to implement the trilateral memorandum signed with Türkiye.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan warned on Friday that Türkiye will not formally approve Finland and Sweden's membership of NATO until the two countries take the necessary "steps."
"President Erdoğan noted that the steps to be taken by Sweden and Finland would determine how fast the approval process ... would go and when it would be concluded," the Turkish Presidency said following Erdoğan’s meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Istanbul which was closed to the media.
Stoltenberg "welcomed the major, concrete steps already taken by both countries to put the memorandum into practice and stressed that their accession will make NATO stronger," the alliance said in a statement on Friday.
On Thursday, the NATO secretary-general said Finland and Sweden's accession was important "to send a clear message to Russia" during a press conference with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Separately, during an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA), Stoltenberg said: "Türkiye, Finland and Sweden agreed to a joint memorandum and now we have seen that Finland and Sweden have implemented their strengthened legislation on counterterrorism.”
He also praised the decision by Finland and Sweden to lift all restrictions on arms and weapons export to Türkiye.
"They're also committed very clearly to continuing to implement because they have formed a permanent mechanism structure where Türkiye and Finland will meet to exchange information, work together on counterterrorism or many other things," Stoltenberg said.
"I think the time has come to finalize the accession process and ratify the accession protocols which are signed in June," the NATO chief added.