Finland’s foreign minister on Monday reiterated that his country will stick with its original plan of not joining NATO without Sweden despite Turkey’s vows that it won’t support Stockholm’s membership.
“Our strong wish is still to join NATO together with Sweden,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said. “We have underlined to all our future NATO partners, including Hungary and Turkey, that Finnish and Swedish security go together.”
Haavisto’s comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested for the first time that Ankara could approve Finland joining the alliance without Sweden. Erdogan has said Turkey won’t support Sweden’s membership over a Quran-burning protest that was held in front of the Turkish embassy in Sweden.
Erdogan is also demanding more extraditions from Sweden, which has a larger Kurdish population than Finland. Turkey wants the extradition of suspected members of the Kurdish militant group PKK and people accused of being involved in a 2016 coup attempt.
Despite Erdogan’s position, Haavisto is hoping the NATO bids will be approved by July. “I still see the NATO summit in Vilnius in July as an important milestone when I hope that both counties will be accepted as NATO members at the latest,” he said.
Erdogan announced last week that Turkey’s presidential elections will be held in May. Officials in his government have said they don’t want to bring the issue of Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids to the parliament before the election.
Haavisto suggested last week that his country might consider joining NATO without Sweden but walked back the comments. Finland joining NATO would escalate tensions with Moscow more than Sweden joining. Finland shares an over 800-mile border with Russia, and the Russian military has plans to boost its presence in the area as a response to Helsinki joining the alliance.
Hungary is the only other NATO country besides Turkey that hasn’t approved of Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insists his country supports their NATO bids, and Hungary’s parliament is expected to vote on the issue soon.