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24 Jan, 2023 09:03

NATO applicant may abandon unity – FM

Finland could consider joining the bloc without fellow candidate Sweden, Pekka Haavisto said
NATO applicant may abandon unity – FM

Sweden’s latest difficulties in obtaining Türkiye’s consent to join NATO may prompt Finland to seek accession to the US-led military alliance alone, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has indicated.

Helsinki and Stockholm submitted their applications for NATO membership together and would rather complete the process together as well, the top diplomat told national broadcaster Yle on Tuesday. However, Finland may decide to move forward on its own, given Sweden’s deteriorating relationship with Türkiye.

The Finnish government would “reevaluate the situation” should Sweden’s bid take too long to be accepted by Ankara, the official said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. He said his government didn’t expect any breakthroughs until after the upcoming general election in Türkiye, which is scheduled for May.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Haavisto said three-way talks involving Sweden and Türkiye may require a “timeout” for a “couple of weeks.” Last week, he mentioned the idea of decoupling the two applications for NATO membership in an interview with Turkish media.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Monday that his government would offer no support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO, after Stockholm allowed a protest that involved the burning of a Koran. The demonstration was staged last weekend by activist Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish lawyer who heads up the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party in Denmark.

Haavisto criticized the demonstrators, stating they were “playing with the security of Finland and Sweden.” The two Nordic nations, who remained neutral throughout the Cold War, claimed that they needed to join NATO due to a perceived threat from Russia.

Even before they formally applied last May, Ankara flagged its objection to their membership. The Turkish government accused Finland and Sweden of undermining its security with an arms embargo and failure to combat groups that Ankara considers terrorist organizations. The candidate nations pledged to address Türkiye’s concerns.