Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signalled he might support Finland’s accession process to the Western defence alliance NATO – while withholding approval for the membership of the country’s Nordic neighbor Sweden.
“If necessary, we can send a different message regarding Finland,” Erdoğan said in a speech to young people on Sunday evening, according to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The Turkish president added: “Sweden will be shocked if we make a different statement regarding Finland.” At the same time, he warned Finland against making the same “mistakes” as its neighbor.
After decades of neutrality, Finland and Sweden applied to join the alliance last year, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
However, the ratification requires unanimous approval, and member Turkey has so far refused to agree, initially citing security concerns. Ever since, diplomatic efforts have been under way to address Ankara’s fears.
Last week, Erdoğan said that Sweden could not count on his country’s support for accession after a right-wing extremist politician burned a Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Ankara has also accused both of the prospective Nordic member countries of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG, both of which Turkey classifies as terrorist groups.
NATO member state Hungary also still hasn’t approved the accession process for Sweden and Finland.