Finland and Sweden can join the bloc separately, the Turkish leader said, but Ankara is only ready to support Finland’s request
Turkey is now ready to give the green light to Finland’s entry into NATO but is not prepared to do the same for Sweden, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, hinting that the two Nordic countries could join the alliance at different times.
At a press conference in Prague, the Turkish leader revealed that Ankara’s relations with Finland “are different from those with Sweden”. In Erdogan’s opinion, “Finland is not a country where terrorists roam freely”, while Sweden is “a place where terror thrives”.
“So, as far as Finland and Sweden are concerned, NATO will have to make a decision. If they make a decision that is in favor of Finland, of course we will do everything that we are obliged to do,” Erdogan said.
His comments came on the same day that Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen confirmed that his country would strike a path towards NATO alongside its “close partner Sweden”.
The Turkish government, which had initially opposed the accession of Finland and Sweden, agreed to formally back its bid in late June. This was made possible after Stockholm and Helsinki signed a ten-point agreement pledging to respond to extradition requests, remove export controls and end support for the groups Ankara considers terrorists. Among such groups are activists from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who sought asylum in the two Nordic states, as well as followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the United States.
Since July, both Sweden and Finland have taken a number of steps to secure Ankara’s approval for their NATO bids. Last week, Sweden announced that it will lift an arms embargo it imposed on Turkey in 2019 over the country’s military operation against the Kurdish rebels in Syria.
However, the negotiations between Sweden and Turkey have obviously been at a low level since a major setback this summer. The complications were caused by the fact that in July there were pictures showing several members of the Swedish Riksdag posing with PKK flags.
Earlier this week, tensions rose further after Türkiye summoned the Swedish ambassador over a television program that Ankara considered insulting.
In order for a candidate nation to be accepted into NATO, the unanimous consent of all current members is required. Apart from Türkiye, only Hungary has not yet approved the accession of Helsinki and Stockholm. While Budapest has not raised any objections to the Nordic countries’ membership, the government chose not to rush a vote in parliament.
Finland and Sweden, which have been neutral countries for decades, decided to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.