ANKARA, Turkey ( Associated Press) — Turkey could give the green light to Finland’s NATO membership ahead of Sweden’s if the military alliance and the two Nordic countries agree, Turkey’s foreign minister said Monday.
But Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has cooled on that suggestion, saying it is important that Finland and Sweden join NATO at the same time.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called Finland’s request “less problematic” than Sweden’s. Turkey accused Stockholm of failing to take concrete steps to crack down on what it views as a terrorist. Most recently, Turkey was angered by anti-Islam demonstrations called by a Danish-Swedish activist outside the Turkish embassies in Stockholm and Copenhagen.
“In my opinion, it would be fair to differentiate between the problematic country and the least problematic country,” Cavusoglu told reporters.
Sweden and Finland jointly applied to become members of the military alliance, abandoning their longstanding policy of military non-alignment after Russia invaded Ukraine.
NATO requires unanimous approval to admit new members, but Turkey and Hungary have delayed the Swedish and Finnish bidding process.
Turkey accuses Stockholm of being too lenient towards groups it views as terrorist organizations or existential threats, including Kurdish groups.
Turkey is seeking the extradition of suspected Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants as well as some supporters of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric accused of 2016 coup attempt.
Following last week’s protests, Turkey warned Sweden not to expect support for its membership bid and indefinitely postponed a key meeting in Brussels where Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership will be discussed .