Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday suggested for the first time that Turkey could approve Finland’s NATO membership without also approving Sweden’s.
“If necessary, we can give a different response concerning Finland. Sweden will be shocked when we give a different response for Finland,” Erdogan said.
Ankara initially opposed Sweden and Finland joining NATO over their alleged ties with the Kurdish militant group PKK, which Turkey and the EU consider a terrorist organization. But Sweden has a larger Kurdish diaspora, and Turkey has been making more demands of Stockholm than Helsinki.
Turkey has been demanding that Sweden oblige with its extradition requests for suspected PKK members and people accused of being involved in a 2016 coup attempt. “If you absolutely want to join NATO, you will return these terrorists to us,” Erdogan said on Sunday.
Turkey recently suspended NATO talks with Sweden and Finland over a Quran-burning protest that was held outside the Turkish embassy in Sweden. Enraged by the protests, Erdogan said last week that Sweden shouldn’t expect Turkey to support its NATO bid.
Throughout the application process, Sweden and Finland have said their memberships are linked and that one won’t join the alliance without the other. Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, suggested Helsinki could reconsider the policy, although he later walked back the comments.
Finland joining NATO will raise tensions with Moscow more so than Sweden’s membership, as Finland shares an over 800-mile border with Russia. Finnish officials have said they won’t rule out hosting nuclear weapons under NATO’s nuclear sharing program, although the country’s president said there’s no indication they would be asked to do so.