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Finland says time-out needed in talks with Turkey over NATO bid

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2023-01-24T09:51:00Z

Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks to members of the media as he attends a European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Belgium January 23, 2023. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Finland’s foreign minister said on Tuesday a time-out of a few weeks was needed in Finland and Sweden’s talks with Turkey on their application to join the NATO military alliance.

Turkey’s president said on Monday that Sweden should not expect his country’s support after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm at the weekend, which included the burning of a copy of the Koran.

“A time-out is needed before we return to the three-way talks and see where we are when the dust has settled after the current situation, so no conclusions should be drawn yet,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“I think there will be a break for a couple of weeks.”

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after Russia invaded of Ukraine, and now need the backing of all current NATO states to advance their application.

But Turkey has said Sweden in particular must take a clearer stance against what Ankara sees as terrorists: mainly Kurdish militants, and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday announced that presidential and parliamentary elections would be brought forward a month to May 14.

Haavisto said he had spoken on Monday with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“Of course they feel the pressure from the upcoming elections in mid-May and because of that the discussion understandably has become heated in many ways in Turkey,” Haavisto said.

Finland and Sweden have repeatedly said they plan to join the alliance simultaneously and Haavisto said he saw no reason to consider whether Finland might go it alone.

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