Finland signals it may consider Nato entry without Sweden

Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said his country must consider joining Nato without Sweden. PHOTO: AFP

HELSINKI - Finland may need to reconsider whether to move jointly with Sweden towards membership in Nato after fresh objections to Sweden from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.

The “primary option” is still for the two countries to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization simultaneously, given the security considerations of both Finland and Sweden, Mr Haavisto said in an interview on YLE Tuesday. 

“We must now assess the situation and see if something has happened, which could block Sweden’s access to the alliance in the longer run,” Mr Haavisto said. Still, it’s too early to take a decision now, he said.

It’s the first time a Finnish policy maker signals decoupling the bids after the Nordic nations applied to join Nato in May.

Turkey has objected to their entry, but allowed the process to move forward at a Nato summit in June.

It later said that it’s “happy” with cooperation from Finland while continuing to push Sweden to crack down more forcefully on groups that are outlawed in Turkey.

On Monday, Mr Erdogan ruled out supporting Sweden’s application after a far-right activist burned Islam’s holy book in Stockholm at the weekend.

The Danish-Swedish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan set fire to a copy of the Quran on Saturday in front of Turkey’s embassy in the Swedish capital, angering Ankara and Muslim countries around the world.

“Sweden should not expect support from us for Nato,” Turkey’s President Erdogan said on Monday.

“It is clear that those who caused such a disgrace in front of our country’s embassy can no longer expect any benevolence from us regarding their application for Nato membership,” Erdogan said.

Swedish leaders have roundly condemned the Quran burning but defended their country’s broad definition of free speech.

The incident came just weeks after a support group for armed Kurdish groups in Syria, the Rojava Committee, hung an effigy of Mr Erdogan by the ankles in front of Stockholm City Hall, sparking outrage in Ankara.

Bids to join Nato must be ratified by all members of the alliance, of which Turkey is a member.

Ankara signed a memorandum of understanding with the two Nordic countries at the end of June, paving the way for the membership process to begin.

But Ankara says its demands remain unfulfilled, in particular for the extradition of Turkish citizens that Turkey wants to prosecute for “terrorism”.

Turkey and Hungary are the only two of Nato’s 30 members who have yet to ratify the applications.

US officials on Monday reiterated their support for the Nordic bids. AFP, BLOOMBERG

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