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Pekka Haavisto clarifies Sweden Nato comments, joining together still the main priority

A wave of anti-Turkey protests in Sweden have inflamed relations between the two countries and put the brakes on Sweden's bid to join Nato.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that anti-Turkey protesters were toying with Finland and Sweden's security. Image: Olivier Hoslet / EPA
Yle News

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) was forced to clarify his comments on Tuesday after he told Yle that Finland might be forced to think about joining the Nato military alliance without its neighbour Sweden, thanks to opposition from Turkey.

When asked on Yle's breakfast television show whether Finland should still proceed at the same pace as Sweden, Haavisto said Finland should be able to re-think that strategy if necessary.

"Of course from the perspective of both countries' security, it is absolutely the number one option," said Haavisto.

"But we have to be ready to re-evaluate the situation. Has something happened that would in the long run prevent Sweden's application from progressing? Now it is too early to take a view on that."

Haavisto added however that joining together remains the preferred option, and that it was too early to take a firm view on the issue.

Swedish reaction

Apparently reacting to Haavisto's comments, Finland's Defence Minister Mikko Savola (Cen) said on Twitter that it was to Nato's, Finland's and Sweden's advantage if the two countries become members at the same time.

"It's important to keep cool heads now," wrote Savola. "We have sought Nato membership at the same time as Sweden."

Haavisto's comments also prompted some questions on the other side of the Gulf of Bothnia, with Foreign Minister Tobias Billström saying that he would like further information.

Haavisto then held a press conference in parliament to clarify his views. He said that the goal remained the same, and he had discussed it with both Billström and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"We are trying to progress this together," said Haavisto.

"He [Stoltenberg] still emphasises that Nato's own priority is that Finland and Sweden would become Nato members at the same time."

Haavisto was also asked if there was a particular deadline for ratification. He replied that the Nato summit in July was important for the organisation's own 'open doors' policy.

Provocations

Sweden has seen large-scale protests against Turkey in recent weeks, culminating in an event at the weekend where a far-right Danish-Swedish provocatuer burned a copy of the Quran.

On Monday evening, Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan said that Sweden "should not expect support from us for Nato".

Turkey is "shocked and annoyed" by the demonstrations, which in turn delay Turkey's willingness to negotiate, Haavisto told Yle.

"These protesters are toying with Finland and Sweden's security," the foreign minister said, adding that their aim is to provoke Turkey and influence public discourse.

These latest 'bumps' on the road will see Finland and Sweden's accession process stalled further, at least until after Turkey's elections, which will conclude in mid-May.

Finland, Sweden and Turkey are currently in talks about a possible trilateral meeting in early spring, according to Haavisto.

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