Erdogan Hints He May Approve Finland’s NATO Bid—Not Sweden’s

January 30, 2023


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted over the weekend that Turkey might approve Finland’s application to join NATO before taking any action on Sweden.

Erdogan’s suggestion came amid a travel warning that followed pro-Kurdish demonstrations a week ago outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden.

“If needed, we could give a different message about Finland. Sweden will be shocked when we give the different message about Finland.” Erdogan told a group of young people in Turkey’s Bilecik province.

Sweden and Finland had both maintained military neutrality for roughly 200 and 100 years respectively when they submitted simultaneous bids in May to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in response to Russia’s February invasion of its sovereign neighbor, Ukraine.

At the time, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the countries’ joint bid for membership a “turning point in security” on the continent of Europe. He then pushed to fast-track their entries, which requires unanimous consensus from NATO’s 30 current member nations.

In December, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sweden was not even “halfway” through fulfilling the commitments necessary to secure Turkey’s support. His remarks came after a Swedish court ruled against extraditing a journalist wanted by Turkey for alleged links to a 2016 failed coup.

That, as well as the pro-Kurdish demonstrations—which Erdogan has called “terrorist organizations roaming wild on [Sweden’s] streets”—have led to Turkey’s resistance to Sweden’s membership in NATO. 

Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey had provided a list of 120 people it wants extradited from Sweden, telling the Swedish Prime Minister, “You will extradite these terrorists if you really want to enter NATO. If you don’t extradite these terrorists, then sorry.”

Last week, Finland’s Foreign Minister suggested that his country may consider joining NATO without neighboring Sweden if Turkey continues to block their joint bid to enter the military alliance. However, Pekka Haavisto walked it back a day later, claiming his comment had been “imprecise” and that Finland’s ambition to enter NATO jointly with Sweden remained unchanged.

On Saturday before Turkey had issued its travel warning, the Nordic countries—Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden—each issued updated travel guidelines for Turkey, urging their citizens visiting Turkey to exercise caution and avoid large gatherings.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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