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Finland, Sweden confirm commitment to joint NATO accession

February 2, 2023

Turkey's suggestion that it may approve Finland and not Sweden has been rejected by the two Nordic countries. Prime Minister Sanna Marin has confirmed Finland's commitment to the trilateral agreement.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristerrson (R) at a joint press conference in Stockholm
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has given her support to joint NATO accession with Sweden during a visit to StockholmImage: onas Ekstromer/TT NYHETSBYRON/picture alliance

The prime ministers of Finland and Sweden said on Thursday that they remain committed to joining the NATO alliance at the same time, despite comments from Turkey that it may approve Finnish accession without Sweden.

"I don't like this atmosphere, position where Sweden is presented as a sort of trouble child in the classroom. I don't think this is the case," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in response to Turkey's continued opposition to Sweden joining the alliance.

"Sweden also ticks all the boxes that are needed to become a member of NATO," she added during a visit to Stockholm.

The two Nordic nations applied to join NATO in May 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, following years of neutrality during the Cold War. But Turkey has blocked the accession with various demands regarding Kurdish opposition figures residing in Sweden.

Why is Turkey blocking Swedish accession?

Ankara has demanded that Sweden extradite individuals that it claims are members of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) — a group categorized as terrorist by both Turkey and the EU.

Sweden and Finland signed a memorandum with Turkey that laid out their path to NATO membership but Ankara has repeatedly criticized Stockholm for its perceived lack of cooperation.

Turkey cancels Swedish visit: Julia Hahn reports

The situation deteriorated on Wednesday when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to the burning of the Quran in Stockholm by a far-right activist.

"Sweden, don't even bother! As long as you allow my holy book, the Quran, to be burned and torn, and you do so together with your security forces, we will not say 'yes' to your entry into NATO," Erdogan said.

Finnish PM clears up confusion

Erdogan has already hinted that Turkey could approve Finland's membership without approving that of Sweden. An agreement must be unanimous among all NATO countries for another to join. So far, Hungary and Turkey are the only ones yet to give their approval.

Thursday's comments from Prime Minister Marin come after Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto appeared to suggest that Finland was considering joining NATO ahead of Sweden.

At the same time, a slight majority of Finns appeared to be in favor of joining NATO even without Sweden, according to a poll reported by AFP.

However, the joint news conference has confirmed Finland's commitment to the trilateral agreement.

"We embarked on this journey together and we do the journey towards membership together," Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Thursday.

ab/jcg (Reuters, EFE, dpa, AFP)