Finland’s foreign minister suggested on Tuesday that Helsinki could join NATO without Sweden as Turkey pushes to expand the security alliance in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
The two Nordic nations first sought to join the 30-member alliance in May, as Russia’s war in Ukraine escalated and Moscow increased its aggressive posture toward Europe in response to tough international sanctions and protests against the war.
But Turkey has long said it will block their entry into the NATO alliance, particularly Sweden, unless they comply with its political demands.
Turkey will oppose Sweden’s membership in NATO after Stockholm protests, Quran burned
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a local news outlet on Tuesday that given Turkey’s protest, Helsinki “will need to re-evaluate the situation if it finds that Sweden’s application is stalling for a long time to come.” “
The comments are one of the first instances a Western official has suggested that a diplomatic solution may not be possible between the bidding countries, NATO and Turkey.
Haavisto later retracted his suggestion while addressing reporters at Finland’s parliament on Tuesday, saying his comments were “impenetrable” and affirming Helsinki’s commitment to jointly enter NATO with Sweden.
Turkey says Swedish decision not to investigate Kurdish protest ‘absurd’
Joining NATO would guarantee expanded security protections under Article 5 for Sweden and Finland – both of which share a border with Russia and have faced threats from Moscow, including to deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles along their western border. There has been an increase in aggression.
But despite months-long talks between Turkey, NATO, Sweden and Finland, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused the two countries of harboring what Ankara considers Kurdish terrorists.
Protests over the weekend by pro-Kurdish forces outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm came after Erdogan suggested on Monday that it was an affront to a flag bearing the PKK symbol – a group designated a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union and Turkey – was flown. and a Quran was reportedly burnt.
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Erdogan said on Monday, “It is clear that those who allowed this kind of despicability to happen in front of our embassy can no longer expect any donations from us regarding their NATO membership application.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said he had contacted Finnish officials over Haavisto’s comments and that the NATO secretary-general stressed a united front when it came to NATO talks with Turkey.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.