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Erdogan says Turkey favors Finland’s NATO bid, not Sweden’s

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ANKARA, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Turkey views Finland’s application for NATO membership positively, but does not support Sweden’s bid, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
“Our position on Finland is positive, but it is not on Sweden,” Erdogan said of their NATO bids in a speech to his AK party deputies in parliament.
Sweden and Finland asked last year to join the transatlantic defense pact after Russia invaded Ukraine, but faced unexpected objections from Turkey and have since sought to win its support .
Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist group by Turkey and the European Union, and another group it accuses of having attempted a coup in 2016.
The three nations reached an agreement on a way forward in Madrid last June, but Ankara suspended talks last month as tensions mounted following protests in Stockholm in which a far-right Danish politician burned a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

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“Sweden shouldn’t bother trying at this point. We won’t say ‘yes’ to their NATO bid as long as they allow the Koran to be burned,” Erdogan said.

Sweden’s foreign minister said there could be no compromise on freedom of expression, but Sweden would continue to implement the Madrid agreement.
“It is very clear that what is necessary for Sweden to become a member of NATO is that we fulfill the requirements that are present in the trilateral agreement,” he told the agency. national press TT.

“Religion is not part of the deal.”

This weekend, Erdogan signaled that Ankara might agree to Finland joining NATO before Sweden. But Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Monday that his country was sticking to its joint bid plan with Sweden.

Of the 30 members of NATO, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the accession of the Nordic countries.
Asked whether Turkey was considering separate processes for Finland and Sweden, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was NATO and the two Nordic countries that would decide on any separate ratifications.
“If NATO and the two countries decide to proceed with separate membership processes, Turkey will of course reconsider Finland’s membership separately and more favorably,” Cavusoglu told a press conference with his counterpart. Estonian in Tallinn.
Finland reiterated its position on Wednesday that it will go hand in hand with its Nordic neighbor.
“Finland continues to push forward the accession process with Sweden,” the joint presidential and government committee on Finnish security and foreign policy said in a statement.
“The fastest possible achievement of the accession of the two countries is in the best interest of Finland, Sweden and the whole of NATO,” he added.Reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu and Ezgi Erkoyun; additional reporting by Essi Lehto in Helsinki and Simon Johnson in Stockholm; Written by Huseyin Hayatsever; Editing by Daren Butler, Jonathan Spicer, Ben Dangerfield and Bernadette Baum

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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