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Opposition leaders slam Erdoğan for making concessions under NATO deal

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Several opposition party leaders have criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for making concessions in negotiations on Swedish and Finnish entry to NATO and for presenting a memorandum signed ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid as a success rather than a failure.

Turkey on Tuesday gave a green light to the Nordic pair’s NATO membership, with Erdoğan, President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden meeting in Madrid under the auspices of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and agreeing on a trilateral memorandum to address Turkey’s security concerns, paving the way for the two Nordic countries’ NATO membership.

The memorandum was signed by the foreign ministers of the three countries — Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu of Turkey, Pekka Haavisto of Finland and Ann Linde of Sweden — in the presence of all three national leaders and the secretary-general.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), at a meeting with locals in Ankara on Thursday accused Erdoğan of hypocrisy concerning his opposition to the NATO membership bids of Finland and Sweden.

“[You said], ‘They can never join as long as I rule [Turkey]’ about the two countries’ entry to NATO. What happened next? You went there [Madrid], signed [the memorandum], [and then] you came back. … Does anyone take the state of the Republic of Turkey seriously anymore?” the CHP leader said, addressing Erdoğan.

The office of Erdoğan, who had stubbornly refused to green-light the applications from the Nordic pair despite calls from his NATO allies to clear the path for them to enter, late on Tuesday said it had agreed to back their drives to join, saying Ankara had “got what it wanted.”

Ankara had accused Finland and especially Sweden of offering a safe haven to Kurdish militants who have been waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

With the memorandum, the two Nordic countries also agreed to lift their embargoes on weapons sales to Turkey, which were imposed in response to Ankara’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.

Turkey’s nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener said the NATO deal is incompatible with the interests of Turkey and lacks any concrete steps regarding Turkey’s demands.

She said at a meeting of her party on Wednesday that although Turkey’s state policy considered the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian offshoot, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), to be “branches of the same poisonous tree,” the memorandum defined the PKK as a terrorist organization while referring to the YPG as “a threat of national interest to Turkey.”

The PKK, which has been waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, is designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara and most of its Western allies. But the YPG has been an important player in the US-led international alliance against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

“In short … an extremely important opportunity for our country’s interests seems to have been missed for the sake of Erdoğan’s love of making foreign policy fodder for domestic politics,” Akşener added.

Erdoğan and his AKP were also criticized by Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right and anti-refugee Victory Party (ZP), who described Ankara’s acceptance of Sweden and Finland’s membership bids in NATO in a tweet as “a strategic mistake.”

“While Turkey lost a trump card, the PKK found another ally in NATO. Erdoğan knelt before [US President Joe] Biden and accepted defeat. This decision will severely damage our country,” he said.

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