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Erdogan hints Finland could join NATO without Sweden

January 30, 2023

The Turkish president reiterated Ankara's demands that Sweden extradite "terrorists." Finland and Sweden have made a joint bid to join the military alliance, ending decades of non-alignment.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking into a microphone
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that Turkey could ratify NATO membership for FinlandImage: Presidential Press Office via REUTERS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that Ankara could approve Finland's application for NATO membership before making a decision on Sweden's bid.

The NATO military alliance is set to hold a summit in July in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Hungary and Turkey are the only two countries in the alliance that have not ratified Sweden and Finland's accession, which requires unanimous agreement from all member states.

What did Erdogan say about Finland's NATO bid?

Erdogan said in a pre-recorded video released on Sunday — in which he is seen addressing young people in the central-western Bilecek province — that Turkey could choose to approve Finland's NATO membership and not Sweden.

"If needed, we could give a different message about Finland," Erdogan said. "Sweden will be shocked when we give the different message about Finland.''

"If you absolutely want to join NATO, you will return these terrorists to us," Erdogan said, referring to Ankara's demands that Sweden extradite Kurdish militants.

Earlier this week, Finland hinted that it could join the NATO military alliance separately from Sweden if progress isn't made on Stockholm's bid.

"We still have to evaluate the situation if it turns out that Sweden's application is stalling for a long time to come," Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said.

In light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied jointly to accede to NATO, ending their longstanding military non-alignment.

Tensions between Turkey and Sweden

Turkey has accused Stockholm of supporting Kurdish militants and groups it accuses of carrying out a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Ankara has also been angered by far-right Danish-Swedish activist Rasmus Paludan, who set fire to a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Following the far-right protest, Erdogan told Sweden not to count on Turkey's support for Stockholm's NATO bid.

Norway, Denmark and Sweden issued a travel advisory urging citizens in Turkey to avoid large gatherings due to demonstrations against Paludan's Quran burning. On Saturday, Turkey followed suit and issued a travel advisory for Europe, citing a risk of "Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist attacks."

Earlier this month, Turkey summoned Sweden's ambassador over a video that showed an effigy of Erdogan hanging from a rope at a protest in Stockholm.

sdi/fb (AP, AFP)