Turkey reaches NATO deal with Finland and Sweden

Scandinavian countries will become observers at the upcoming summit

Turkey will support inviting Finland and Sweden into NATO at the bloc’s upcoming summit in Spain, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto announced on Tuesday after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

The three countries signed a memorandum of understanding at the meeting, organized with the support of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

“The concrete steps for our accession to NATO will be agreed among NATO allies over the next two days, but that decision is now imminent,” said Niinisto. “I am pleased that this stage on Finland’s journey towards NATO membership has been completed.”

According to Turkey, Finland and Sweden pledged to “condemn terrorism in all its forms” and end their support for organizations Ankara has designated as terrorist – including the Kurdish groups PKK and YPG, as well as the movement led by the exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen, which the Turkish government refers to as FETO. 

“Turkey got what it wanted,” Erdogan said in a statement after the deal was announced.

HERE IS THE JOINT DECLARATION

• Sweden and Finland confirm that there are no arms embargoes against Turkey. pic.twitter.com/gMa0LgQHJO

— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) June 28, 2022

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Stoltenberg said that Finland and Sweden will become observers in NATO at the upcoming summit. He added that the memorandum includes provisions on fighting terrorism and arms exports, including adopting stricter national legislation.

Finland and Sweden imposed an arms embargo against Turkey in 2019, over Ankara’s intervention in Syria. Turkey also reportedly demanded that Stockholm and Helsinki shut down the offices and ban the publications belonging to FETO, freeze the assets related to groups it has designated as terrorists, and even ban them from demonstrating in public.

Ankara’s opposition threatened to derail NATO’s plan to invite Sweden and Finland at the summit in Madrid which began on Tuesday. The two traditionally neutral Scandinavian countries declared their desire to join the US-led alliance in April, citing the current conflict in Ukraine.

Dozens killed in prison riot

A fire broke out in the middle of a riot at Colombia’s Tulua prison, resulting in 51 deaths

Some 51 people have been killed and 30 injured after a fire broke out during a prison riot and escape attempt at Tulua prison in Colombia on Tuesday morning. The prisoners reportedly set their mattresses on fire during the affray.

The fire began in a cell block housing around 200 inmates, Semana, a Colombian news site, reported. After the prisoners had lit their mattresses on fire, some tried to escape, while others – who are believed to be connected with gangs – began brawling.

Colombian Minister of Justice Wilson Ruiz Orejuela told the story slightly differently, stating that the tragedy began as a fight between inmates, one of whom set fire to a mattress. Orejuela said that the blaze spread, and the Tulua fire department had to be called in to extinguish it. 

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Bogota prison riot over coronavirus leaves 23 dead and 83 injured – Colombian justice ministry (VIDEOS)

It is unclear how many inmates perished in the fire and how many died as a result of the fighting.   

As families of the prisoners gathered outside the facility to learn of the fates of their loved ones, officials read out a list of survivors. All of the inmates held in other cell blocks were described as being “in perfect condition.”

According to Semana, there were 1,267 inmates in the entire facility at the time of the tragedy, around 200 more than the prison was designed to hold.

Colombian President Ivan Duque has called for an investigation into the incident, while President-elect Gustavo Petro called for a “complete rethinking of prison policy” aimed at protecting the “humanization of the prison and the dignity of the prisoner.”

A similar scenario played out at Bogota’s Modelo Prison in March 2020, when a protest over sanitary conditions devolved into a violent riot that killed 23 prisoners and injured more than 100.