Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Ankara accept Finland’s request to join NATO before deciding on Sweden’s dossier.
NATO is scheduled to hold a military summit in July in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Hungary and Turkey are the only two countries in the alliance that have not ratified Sweden and Finland, which requires unanimous agreement from all member states.
What did Erdogan say about Finland’s bid for NATO?
Erdogan said in a pre-recorded video released on Sunday — in which he is seen addressing youth in the country’s central western Bilcik province — that Turkey may choose to accept Finland’s membership in NATO rather than Sweden.
“If necessary, we can give a different message about Finland,” Erdogan said. “Sweden will be shocked when we give a different message than Finland.”
“If you absolutely want to join NATO, you will return these terrorists to us,” Erdogan said, referring to Ankara’s demands that Sweden hand over the Kurdish militants.
Earlier this week, Finland hinted that it might join NATO’s military alliance separately from Sweden if there is no progress in the Stockholm bid.
“We still have to assess the situation if Sweden’s application turns out to be stalled for a long time to come,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.
In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland jointly applied to join NATO, ending their longstanding military non-alignment.
Tensions between Turkey and Sweden
Turkey accuses Stockholm of supporting militants and Kurdish groups, which it accuses of carrying out a failed coup attempt in 2016.
Ankara also angered Danish-Swedish far-right activist Rasmus Paludan, who set fire to a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. In the wake of the far-right protest, Erdogan asked Sweden not to count on Turkey’s support for Stockholm’s NATO bid.
Norway, Denmark and Sweden issued travel advisories urging citizens in Turkey to avoid large gatherings due to demonstrations against the burning of the Koran in Paludan. Turkey followed suit on Saturday and issued a travel warning for Europe, citing the danger of “Islamophobia, xenophobia and racist attacks”.
Earlier this month, Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador over a video showing an effigy of Erdogan hanging from a rope at a protest in Stockholm.
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