Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan let it be known on Sunday that Turkey could approve Finland’s candidacy for NATO, without doing the same with Sweden.
“If necessary, we can give a different message about Finland. Sweden will be shocked when we give a different message about Finland,” said the Turkish president in response to a question about the candidacy of the two Nordic countries to NATO, during a televised meeting with young people.
For the first time, the Turkish government hinted that it is willing to treat Finland’s request separately from Sweden’s.
Turkey halted Swedish and Finnish NATO membership last Tuesday by indefinitely postponing a tripartite meeting originally scheduled for early February to address Turkish objections.
Erdogan warned on Monday that Sweden, which he accuses of harboring Kurdish “terrorists”, could no longer count on Ankara’s “support” after a far-right activist burned a copy of the Koran in Stockholm.
Without mentioning the incident, the Turkish president reiterated his criticism of Sweden over Turkey’s extradition demands.
“We told them ‘if they want to join NATO, they have to return these terrorists to us’. We gave them a list of 120 people (…) But they mock us saying that they have changed their Constitution,” he said.
The head of Finnish diplomacy, Pekka Haavisto, said on Tuesday that the joint accession of the two Nordic countries remains “the first option”, but “obviously we have to assess the situation, if something has happened that in the long term will make Sweden I can’t go on anymore.”
At the same time, he said it was “too early to take a position,” in statements to public television Yle,
Until recently, Finland had refused to speculate on entry without Sweden, insisting on the advantages of joint membership with its nearest neighbour.
The Finnish minister also stated on Wednesday that he hoped the ratification process for the two Nordic countries would be completed before the Alliance summit to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania in July, despite the disagreement with Turkey.
Turkey has been blocking Sweden and Finland from joining NATO since May, accusing them of harboring Kurdish activists and supporters it calls “terrorists”, including those from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Unlike the case of Sweden, Turkey has stated in recent months that it has no major objections to Finland joining NATO.
Like the 30-member alliance, Turkey must ratify the entry of any new member and has de facto veto power.
Only Turkey and Hungary, which say they do not want to block the demands of the two Nordic countries, have yet to ratify these two accessions.