Finland’s top diplomat hints at joining NATO without Sweden

The top diplomat of Finland suggested Tuesday that Finland might have to consider joining NATO with Sweden, after Turkey’s president raised serious doubts about the military alliance’s expansion.

Pekka Haavisto, Foreign Minister of Sweden, said that “we still have to assess the situation if Sweden’s application stalls for a long while to come.”

After weekend protests in Stockholm by anti-Islam activists and pro-Kurdish organizations, Recep Tayyip Erdan, Turkey’s President, made this comment.

This was the first time that a senior government official from either country raised doubts about the alliance. Later, Haavisto retracted his comments Tuesday night and told Parliament reporters that he was “impertinent” and that Finland would continue to pursue NATO membership with Sweden.

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He stated that he spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and had reiterated to Haavisto the desire for the two Nordic countries to join together.

Haavisto stated that there were concerns raised within NATO about how recent incidents in Sweden would affect the schedule.

All NATO members must approve the Swedish and Finnish bids to join NATO. Turkey has so far blocked it.

Although Sweden and Finland were committed to the alliance until now, Haavisto’s comments to YLE raised concerns about Finland considering moving forward without its Nordic neighbour.

Tobias Billstrom, the Swedish Foreign Minister, stated that “we are in contact with Finland in order to discover what is actually meant.” He made this statement to The Associated Press. “Sweden recognizes the agreement between Sweden and Turkey about our NATO membership. That’s what we have done so far, and that will continue.

The three countries signed a memorandum in understanding at the NATO summit last year. They agreed not to support Kurdish militants and to lift arms embargos imposed on Turkey after its incursion into northern Syria.

The process has been complicated by the simultaneous anti-Turkish and pro-Kurdish demonstrations in Stockholm. A far-right activist hailing from Denmark held a protest outside of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, where he burnt the Quran, Islam’s holy book. Later Saturday, a separate pro-Kurdish demonstration took place in Stockholm.

While trying to distance itself from protests, the Swedish government insists that they are permitted under the country’s freedom-of-expression laws.

Turkey reacted angrily to the protests and cancelled a visit by the Swedish defense ministry to Ankara. Protests were held in front of the Swedish diplomatic missions in Ankara, Istanbul.

Erdogan attacked the Swedish authorities for allowing the Quran burning demonstration.

He stated, “It is obvious that those who permitted such vileness in front of our Embassy can no longer expect any charity form us regarding their NATO application.”

He also criticised the pro-Kurdish protest, accusing Sweden that it allows “terror groups to run wild on your avenues, streets, and streets.” He stated that if Sweden doesn’t respect Turkey or Muslims, “they won’t see any support form us on the NATO question.”