Finland can join NATO without Sweden, Erdogan
The Turkish president reiterated his demand for Sweden to hand over ‘terrorists’ to Ankara. Finland and Sweden are jointly seeking to abandon their decades-long policy of non-alignment and join the Western military alliance.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara may approve Finland’s application for NATO membership before making a decision on Sweden’s application.
A summit of NATO, the Western military alliance, is scheduled to take place in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, in July. Hungary and Turkey are the only two countries that have not ratified Sweden and Finland. In order to make a country a new member of NATO, a unanimous decision by all its member countries is necessary.
What did Erdogan say about Finland’s membership bid?
In a pre-recorded video released on Sunday, in which he can be seen addressing young people in the central western province of Belgaum, Erdogan said Turkey could approve Finland’s application for NATO membership. But not Sweden.
Erdoğan said that if necessary, we can give a different message about Finland. “Sweden will be surprised when we give a different message about Finland.”
“If you really want to join NATO, you should hand over these terrorists to us,” the Turkish president said, referring to demands from Sweden to hand over Kurdish militants to Ankara.
Finland signaled earlier this week that it could join the military alliance separately without Sweden if Stockholm’s bid to join NATO fails to make progress.
“If we find that Sweden’s request is coming our way, we have to review the situation,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pikahavustu said.
Sweden and Finland jointly applied to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, ending their long-standing policy of non-alignment.
Tensions between Turkey and Sweden
Turkey accuses Stockholm of supporting Kurdish militants, who allegedly attempted a failed coup in 2016.
Ankara is also angered by the alleged insulting behavior of far-right anti-Islamic Danish-Swedish leader Rasmus Palloden. Paludan recently burned the Koran, Muslims’ holiest book, outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. After this incident, Erdoğan said that Sweden should not expect Turkey’s support for NATO membership.
Norway, Sweden and Denmark recently issued a travel advisory urging their citizens in Turkey to avoid large gatherings in light of Paludan’s Koran-burning incident.
Turkey on Sunday also issued a travel advisory for Europe in response, citing the risk of “Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist attacks”.
Earlier this month, Turkey summoned Sweden’s ambassador over the publication of a video showing a statue of Erdogan hanging from a rope during a protest in Stockholm.