Türkiye postponed a trilateral mechanism meeting with Sweden and Finland on their NATO bid further denting the Nordic countries’ hopes of joining the Western defense alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ankara’s decision came one day after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lashed out at Sweden for allowing the burning of the Quran outside Ankara’s Stockholm embassy.
“It is obvious that those who allowed such a scandal outside our country’s embassy can no longer expect any favor from us concerning their NATO membership application,” Erdoğan said on Jan. 23.
A Turkish diplomatic source said the third round of the tri-party meeting has been pushed back from February to a “later date,” without providing any details.
The three countries held two rounds of meetings to review the implementation of the trilateral agreement established by the three states under the trilateral agreement they signed in late June. The Nordic states pledged to support Türkiye’s fight against terrorism and agreed to address Ankara’s pending deportation or extradition requests for “terror” suspects. The mechanism aims to evaluate the implementation of the deal.
Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden, decided jointly to end their decades-long policies of military non-alignment, winning formal support for their plans at a historic NATO summit in June.
Their bids were then swiftly ratified by 28 of NATO’s 30 member states, highlighting the issues’ urgency in the face of Russia’s aggression.
NATO-member Türkiye hasn’t ratified but endorsed their accession, which requires unanimous approval from all present alliance members.
Sweden and Finland have taken some steps to address Türkiye’s concerns but Ankara says more concrete actions are needed for the Turkish Parliament’s ratification of their accession to the alliance.
Swedish PM warns of “provocateurs”
Sweden’s prime minister immediately called “for reflection, for calm in the process so that we can return to functioning talks between Sweden, Finland and Türkiye.”
Ulf Kristersson said there were “provocateurs who wanted to spoil Sweden’s relations with other countries” and foil its bid to join the U.S.-led Western military alliance.
“No national security question is more important than that we, with Finland, quickly become members of NATO,” Kristersson said.
“We have to assess the situation, whether something has happened that in the longer term would prevent Sweden from going ahead,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told broadcaster Yle.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said he was “in contact with Finland to find out what this really means.”
Haavisto later clarified his comments, saying he did not want to “speculate” on Finland joining alone “as both countries seem to be making progress,” and emphasized their commitment to a joint application.
But “of course, somewhere in the back of our minds, we are thinking about different worlds where some countries would be permanently barred from membership,” he said.
Finland approves military sales to Türkiye
Meanwhile, Finland’s defence ministry said Wednesday the country had issued the first commercial export licence for military material to Türkiye since 2019 – a key demand for Ankara to approve Helsinki’s NATO bid.
Riikka Pitkanen, the special adviser at the ministry, told AFP that the export licence granted concerned steel that would be used for armour.__Daily Hurriyet