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Erdogan Hints at Accepting Finland’s NATO Membership; Rejects Sweden Amidst Tensions

Darren Maung
Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.
Published: January 31, 2023
A protester pulls a cart in front of her with a Recep Tayyip Erdogan, doll during an Anti NATO and anti Turkey demonstration on Jan. 21, 2023 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Image: Jonas Gratzer/Getty Images)

On Jan. 29, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hinted that his government may approve of Finland joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) without Sweden. 

Erdogan has not been shy about voicing his disapproval of Sweden’s membership, citing several issues that have plagued relations between the two countries.

Finland in, Sweden out

In a televised announcement on Sunday, Erdogan warned that Sweden may not receive the same reception for its application as that of Finland’s.

“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, according to Reuters.

Sweden and Finland both requested to join NATO last year as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves throughout Europe. The two countries require the approval of all of the alliance’s member countries to enter. Only Turkey and Hungary have yet to greenlight the applications. 

Erdogan’s rejection of Sweden was reported to have been bolstered by two incidents. One of the prime factors was what he believed to be the harboring of supposed terrorist groups, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has resisted the Turkish leadership since 1984.

Pro-Kurdish groups were reported to have protested in response to Sweden and Finland’s attempts to appease Turkey by blocking the PKK’s activities in their countries.

“We gave Sweden a list of 120 persons and told them to extradite those terrorists in their country. If you don’t extradite them, then sorry about that,” Erdogan said, referring to an agreement Turkey made to the two Nordic countries last June following their applications.

Another incident involved anti-Turkish protests running amok in Stockholm, which saw an effigy of Erdogan hung upside-down. This prompted the cancellation of a planned Jan. 27 visit by Sweden’s defense minister Pål Jonson with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, AP News reported.

The latter said that the meeting no longer held “any importance or point” as the protests were seemingly allowed to go on. 


Additionally, Erdogan also warned Sweden over the burning of a copy of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, by an activist outside of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. The act halted talks between Turkey, Sweden and Finland, al-Jazeera wrote.

“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy [in Stockholm] can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership,” he said in response to the act. 

Following the uproar and protests, Turkey issued a travel warning to its citizens, with the foreign ministry referring to an “increase in ani-Turkish protests” by suspected terrorist groups.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wants to “restore NATO dialogue with Turkey,” but his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu argued that it would be “meaningless” to continue negotiations.

Though the Finnish government is still adamant they want to join NATO alongside its next-door neighbor, its diplomats express worry that they may have to move forward with their entry into the alliance without Sweden, Bloomberg wrote.

“A joint path to NATO is still possible,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said. 

“Somewhere in the back of our minds we are considering options in case a country were to face permanent resistance.”