Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled that Ankara could accept Finland into NATO before taking any action on the membership of its Nordic neighbour Sweden.
According to international media reports, Erdogan was speaking just days after Ankara suspended NATO accession talks with the two countries after a protest in Stockholm in which a far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran.
“We may deliver Finland a different message [on their NATO application] and Sweden would be shocked when they see our message. But Finland should not make the same mistake Sweden did,” Erdogan said in a televised speech aired on Sunday.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dropping their longstanding military nonalignment.
Every member of the 30-nation alliance needs to approve their membership, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries yet to have done so. The Hungarian parliament is expected to approve the bids in February.
Erdogan’s main complaint has been with Sweden’s refusal to extradite dozens of people that Ankara has linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a failed 2016 coup attempt.
On Sunday, Erdogan repeated his demand for Sweden to hand over some 120 alleged suspects.
“If you absolutely want to join NATO, you will return these terrorists to us,” Erdogan said.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said his country wants to restart NATO dialogue with Turkey.
Late on Saturday, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a travel warning for European countries over anti-Turkish demonstrations and what it described as Islamophobia.
As part of that memorandum, Erdogan said Turkey had provided a list of 120 people it wants extradited from Sweden.