Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto arrives in Bucharest, Romania, November 30
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Finland calls for a ‘time out’ in talks with Turkey over Finnish and Swedish NATO membership, after a series of events between Turkey and Sweden spark new tensions and acrimony.
“A time out is needed before we get back to the three-way talks and see where we are when the dust settles after the current situation, so no conclusions need to be drawn yet… I think there will be a pause for a while. weeks,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters in an interview published on Tuesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Sweden should not expect his country’s support to join NATO after allowing a far-right protest and the burning of the Koran in Stockholm, outside the embassy from Turkey.
“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer count on our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said.
The burning of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, was led by Rasmus Paludan, who leads Denmark’s far-right Hard Line political party. Swedish authorities said the protest was legal under the country’s free speech laws, but Swedish leaders condemned the act, calling it “appalling”.
Protesters hold lit torches during the demonstration. A group of people demonstrated near the Swedish consulate in Beyoglu after Rasmus Paludan, leader of the far-right Hard Line political party in Denmark and a Swedish citizen, burned the Holy Quran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Onur Dogman | Sopa Pictures | Light flare | Getty Images
The Islamophobic protest sparked angry reactions and condemnation from a number of Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, and prompted a protest by Muslims outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul.
A sign in a window of the Swedish consulate in Istanbul read in capital letters: “We do not share the opinion of this book-burning idiot!!”
A banner on the window of the Consulate General of Sweden, saying: ‘We do not share the views of this idiot book engraver’ as supporters of the Free Cause Party (Huda Par) and the Platform of Quranic Generation (Kuran Nesli Platformu) are organizing a protest against the burning of the Quran in front of the Consulate General in Istanbul on Sunday, January 22, 2023 in Turkey.
Elif Ozturk Ozgoncu | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Barrage at NATO
Since May 2022, Finland and Sweden have made clear their intention to simultaneously join NATO, permanently abandoning their long-standing policy of non-alignment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Acceptance of a new member into the 73-year alliance requires the unanimous consent of the current 30 members; Turkey is the member that opposes the new membership the most vigorously.
The reasons for Ankara’s opposition are complex, but mainly focus on Sweden’s support for Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists, and arms embargoes that Sweden and Finland, as well as d other EU countries are imposing on Turkey for targeting Kurdish militias in Syria.
Finland and Sweden have signed a trilateral agreement with Turkey to work to overcome Turkey’s points of opposition to Nordic states joining NATO. But the last planned meetings were canceled after the Quran burning incident, along with a protest by Kurdish activists in Sweden days earlier that featured an effigy of Erdogan hanging upside down by a rope.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin recently said Sweden has eight to 10 weeks to make the changes Ankara is asking for because Turkey’s parliament could be suspended ahead of the country’s crucial presidential election on May 14. Sweden said it needed an additional six months to make these changes.
Analysts polled by CNBC do not expect any major shifts in Turkey’s stance ahead of the election.