(Ankara) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted on Sunday that Turkey might approve Finland’s NATO membership, without doing the same for Sweden.
“If necessary, we can give a different message regarding Finland. Sweden will be shocked when we give a different message about Finland,” said the Turkish head of state in response to a question about the two Nordic countries’ candidacy for NATO during a televised meeting with young people.
Ankara thus lets for the first time hear to be ready to treat the candidature of Finland separately from that of Sweden.
Turkey had put a stop to the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO on Tuesday, postponing indefinitely a tripartite meeting initially scheduled for early February and intended to remove Ankara’s objections to their candidacy.
The Turkish president had warned on Monday that Sweden, already accused by Turkey of harboring Kurdish “terrorists”, could no longer count on the “support” of Ankara, after a far-right activist burned a copy of the Koran in Stockholm.
Without mentioning this event, the Turkish president however reiterated his reproaches against Sweden regarding Turkey’s extradition requests.
“We told them: ‘If you want to join NATO, you have to send these terrorists back to us.’ We gave them a list of 120 people. […] But they are making fun of us by saying that they have changed their Constitution,” he said.
The burning of a Quran by an anti-Islam right-wing extremist last week near the Turkish embassy in Sweden sparked strong protests from Ankara and several capitals of the Muslim world.
Ankara had already canceled an announced visit by the Swedish Minister of Defense.
Stockholm deplored a “deeply disrespectful” act and expressed its “sympathy” to Muslims, stressing that the Swedish Constitution prevented the prohibition of this type of action, without however extinguishing Turkish anger.
A joint membership of the two Nordic countries remains “the first option”, but “we obviously have to assess the situation, if something has happened which means that in the long term Sweden can no longer move forward”, said the leader on Tuesday. of Finnish diplomacy Pekka Haavisto on public television Yle, judging however that it was “too early to take a position”.
Helsinki had until recently refused to speculate on an entry without Sweden, pointing to the benefits of joint membership with its very close neighbour.
The Finnish minister also said on Wednesday that he hoped the ratification process for the two Nordic countries would be completed before the Atlantic Alliance summit in Vilnius in July, despite the disagreement with Turkey.
Turkey has been blocking Sweden’s – and Finland’s – entry into NATO since May, accusing them of harboring Kurdish militants and sympathizers whom it describes as “terrorists”, in particular those of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK).
Unlike the case of Sweden, Turkey has said in recent months that it has no major objections to Finland’s entry into NATO.
Like the 30 members of the Alliance, Ankara must ratify the entry of any new member and therefore has a right of veto.
Only Turkey and Hungary – which says it does not want to block the Finnish and Swedish requests – have yet to ratify these two memberships.