Turkey suggests Sweden, Finland can join NATO separately

PRAGUE (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday there is a difference in the approaches by Sweden and Finland to meeting Turkey’s security demands for them to join NATO, suggesting they might join at separate times.

Turkey had threatened to block Sweden and Finland’s membership in the 30-member defense alliance, accusing Stockholm and — to a lesser extent — Helsinki of supporting groups that Ankara deems to be terrorists.

NATO operates by consensus and the two Nordic countries need Turkey’s approval to join. The parliaments of Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify their accession.

“As long as the terrorist organizations are demonstrating on the streets of Sweden, and as long as the terrorists are inside the Swedish parliament, there is not going to be a positive approach from Turkey towards Sweden,” Erdogan said at a news conference at the inaugural summit of the European Political Community.

Erdogan said however, Turkey’s stance toward Finland is more positive.

“The relations with Finland are quite different in nature than those between Sweden and Turkey,” Erdogan said. “Finland is not a country where terrorists are roaming freely.”

The Turkish leader added: “NATO will have to make an eventual decision, and if they make a decision that is in favor of Finland, of course we will do everything that we are required to.”

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Helsinki favors joining the alliance at the same time as Sweden.

“From our perspective, it would be very important that Finland and Sweden would enter NATO together because we are both in the northern part of Europe, both in the same security geopolitical position,” she said.

“But of course we will continue the discussion and it’s now up to Turkey and also Hungary to make the decisions for ratification,” Marin added.

Last week, Sweden announced that it would lift an arms embargo that it imposed on Turkey in 2019, following a Turkish military operation against the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria. The move was widely seen as a step aimed at securing Ankara’s approval for its NATO membership.

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