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Haavisto, Halla-aho downplay fears of possible Turkish Nato veto

Earlier on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said allowing Finland and Sweden to join the alliance would be "a mistake".

Former UN official Pekka Haavisto (Green) has been foreign minister for nearly three years (file photo). Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Jussi Halla-aho (Finns) have downplayed fears that Turkey could block Finland's Nato membership bid.

Earlier on Friday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said allowing Finland and Sweden to join the alliance would be "a mistake" due to the alleged presence of "terrorists" in both countries, apparently referring to supporters of separatist Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey.

Asked about the comments later on Friday, Haavisto called for a wait-and-see attitude, saying that Nato ratification must proceed one step at a time.

Any membership application must be approved the parliaments of all 30 Nato countries.

"In processes like this, we need patience. Things don't happen in one day," Haavisto said. He was speaking at a joint press conference in Helsinki with visiting Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho.

Haavisto said he has been in regular contact with his Turkish colleague Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu this spring and has visited Turkey twice.

"I've had good discussions with my counterpart and Turkey has expressed its positive view of Finland in these discussions. Let's see how the debate progresses," Haavisto said.

Cravinho said that Portugal welcomes Finland into Nato, and that he expects his country's parliament to support the decision.

Halla-aho: High threshold for one country to block membership

Halla-aho, who heads the powerful foreign affairs committee in Parliament, said he was not worried by Erdogan's comments at this stage.

In his view, there would be a high threshold for any single country to block a membership application that is supported by all of Nato's other 29 member states.

Halla-aho says that based on his own contacts, he has the strong impression that Turkey will not cause difficulties about Finland's membership.

He suggested that the comments were more related to Swedish policies, and that Erdogan wants to lodge a protest.

"Based on the information I've received from experts, I would think that this is, above all, related to Sweden's historic expressions of support for groups that Turkey defines as terrorist organisations," the opposition Finns Party leader told Yle.

Finland and Sweden are widely expected to apply for Nato membership next week. The other three Nordic states – Denmark, Iceland and Norway – have all been members of the western alliance since 1949.