Turkey on Tuesday put a stop to the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, postponing indefinitely a tripartite meeting initially scheduled for early February and intended to remove Ankara’s objections to their candidacy.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday that Sweden, already accused by Turkey of harboring Kurdish “terrorists”, could no longer count on “support” from Ankara, after a far-right activist burned a copy of the Koran in Stockholm.
A diplomatic source in Ankara clarified that it was a “postponement to a later date” of the meeting.
Sweden immediately expressed its concern over a “serious situation”, saying it wanted to “restart dialogue” with Turkey as soon as possible.
Membership of NATO is “vital” for Sweden, said Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, denouncing the action of “provocateurs” seeking to derail the Swedish candidacy.
Faced with Mr. Erdogan’s warning, Finland for the first time opened the door on Tuesday to NATO membership without Sweden, while repeating that joint membership of the two Nordic countries remained “the first option ” and the only one currently on the table.
But “we obviously have to assess the situation, if something has happened that in the long term Sweden can no longer move forward,” said Finnish foreign policy chief Pekka Haavisto on public television Yle.
– Elections in Turkey –
“We understand the frustration that many in Finland are currently feeling at not being a member of NATO yet,” Kristersson said on Tuesday evening, “but we are focusing on sending a very clear message that Finland continues to want to join at the same time than Sweden”, reacted Mr. Kristersson.
Stockholm deplored a “deeply disrespectful” act and expressed its “sympathy” to Muslims, stressing that the Swedish Constitution prevented the prohibition of this type of action, without however extinguishing Turkish anger.
These protests are an “obstruct” to NATO candidacies and the “protesters are playing with the security of Finland and Sweden”, lamented Mr. Haavisto on Tuesday.
“My own conclusion is that there will be a delay (for a Turkish green light), which will certainly last until the Turkish elections in mid-May,” he acknowledged.
A pro-Kurdish demonstration, with many flags of the Ankara-hunted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), also took place in central Stockholm on Saturday.
In mid-January, a support group for Kurdish armed groups in Syria, the Rojava Committee, hung a mannequin bearing the image of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in front of Stockholm City Hall, arousing indignation in Ankara despite condemnations of the Swedish government.
– “Plan B” –
Unlike the case of Sweden, Turkey has said in recent months that it has no major objections to Finland’s entry into NATO.
Like the 30 members of the alliance, Ankara must ratify the entry of any new member and therefore has a right of veto.
Only Turkey and Hungary – which says it does not want to block them – have yet to ratify these two memberships.
Helsinki had so far refused to speculate on an entry without Sweden, pointing to the advantages of joint membership with its very close neighbour.
“There is a change: now plans B are spoken out loud,” said Matti Pesu, defense expert at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA).
“I think the heads of government have considered several scenarios, but so far it was felt important to maintain a united line and it was not necessarily wise to say that Finland was considering going without Sweden. , he analyzes.
In May, the two Nordic countries submitted their candidacy the same day to NATO headquarters in Brussels, as a direct result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ending decades out of military alliances.