STOCKHOLM, March 9 (Reuters) – The Swedish government will send an anti-terrorism bill to parliament on Thursday hoping to persuade NATO member Turkey to lift objections to Sweden joining the U.S.-led defence pact.
The new law, work on which started in 2017 after a truck was driven into crowds in Stockholm killing five people, would criminalise “the participation in a terrorist organisation”, the government said.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO amid heightened security concerns after Russia invaded Ukraine, but faced unexpected objections from Turkey, which says Stockholm has harboured what Ankara calls members of terrorist groups.
Turkey recently indicated it would approve only Finland for NATO membership.
A spokesperson for Swedish Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer said the government would submit its bill to parliament on Thursday after formally approving it earlier in the day.
“Fighting terrorism is a central part of the trilateral agreement,” Strommer said in an op-ed in daily Dagens Nyheter, referring to a trilateral memorandum on steps toward Turkish ratification signed last year by Turkey, Sweden and Finland.
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“With the new legislation that the government is now presenting, Sweden will have a powerful tool to prosecute people who support terrorism.”
Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies including Sweden and Finland, and another group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
Ankara in January paused talks on their NATO applications after a Danish politician burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Turkey, Sweden and Finland were due to resume trilateral discussions on the NATO applications at a meeting on Thursday in Brussels, at civil servant level.
A date remains to be set for the Swedish lawmakers’ vote on the bill. The government aims for the legislation to enter into force in June. An amendment to the constitution that was a necessary prerequisite for the proposed law entered into force in January.
Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, editing by Terje Solsvik, William Maclean
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