Finland hopes to join NATO with Sweden despite Erdogan remarks: FM
Finland's Foreign Minister says he hopes both his country and Sweden will be accepted as NATO members.
Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Monday that his country still hopes to join NATO together with Sweden after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's weekend remarks that Ankara could accept Finland without its Nordic neighbor.
"Our strong desire in Finland has been and still is to join NATO together with Sweden," Haavisto told reporters in Helsinki, adding that "our position remains the same."
Following the outbreak of the Ukraine war, Sweden and Finland both submitted applications to join NATO last year. However, their bids for accession require the unanimous approval of all 30 NATO member states to be considered.
Ankara has refused to ratify the two countries' NATO membership bids, primarily because of Sweden's refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Ankara links to Kurdish militants and a failed 2016 coup attempt.
Turkey has also reacted with fury to a decision by the Swedish police to allow a protest at which a far-right extremist burned a copy of the Holy Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm earlier this month.
It has also been outraged by a Swedish prosecutor's decision not to press charges against a pro-Kurdish group that hung an effigy of Erdogan by its ankles outside Stockholm City Court.
On Sunday, Erdogan drew a clear distinction between the positions taken by Sweden and Finland in the past few months.
"If necessary, we can give a different response concerning Finland. Sweden will be shocked when we give a different response for Finland," he said.
But Haavisto, who said he held talks with his Turkish counterpart following Erdogan's remarks, rejected that option, stressing that "Sweden is our closest ally in defense and foreign policy."
"I still see the NATO summit in Vilnius in July as an important milestone when I hope that both countries will be accepted as NATO members at the latest," the Finnish Foreign Minister indicated.
It is noteworthy that last week, Haavisto hinted that Finland may consider joining NATO without Sweden.
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