Sakkov: No signs that Erdogan trying to divide Finland, Sweden NATO process

Sven Sakkov.
Sven Sakkov. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

No indications have been observed to suggest that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan intends to drive a wedge between Finland and Sweden in their applications to join NATO, Estonia's Ambassador to Finland, Sven Sakkov, says.

Sakkov was responding to media reports Tuesday morning that Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto believes that his country may have to consider joining NATO independently from Sweden, should the latter's application process get too protracted.

Sakkov noted that nonetheless, Haavisto had at the press conference appearance which sparked the reports reiterated that the two countries will be joining in tandem with one another, and that Haavisto was dealing with hypotheticals.

"Such a scenario could arise," Sakkov said.

"The emergence of this situation would also be in Turkey's hands, because its decides whether to bring the Finland and Sweden's NATO accessions to the Turkish Parliament as separate drafts, or jointly. If they do so separately, it is theoretically possible that what Foreign Minister Haavisto said would materialize," he went on.

There are currently no indications that Erdogan is actually planning to do divide and conquer in this way, however, he added. "According what is currently known, they will both be joining together, but that may change," Sakkov went on.

There may well be a hiatus in negotiations with Turkey until the Turkish elections in May, Sakkov added. 

He said: "What happened in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm over the weekend still threw a major spanner in the works, and here, the Turkish election schedule also comes into play.

"The elections will be held on May 14. You also have to take into account that March 22 to April 20 is the month of Ramadan, so in effect the Turkish legislature actually has until March 22, before the elections," the ambassador went on.

The next important, relevant milestone thereafter is the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 11-12, he noted.

"We'll see if the Turkish parliament can ratify these things before then. Currently, Finnish leaders have given indications that it may take longer than they originally thought," he added.

Neither Finland nor Sweden were likely to change their mind about joining, come what may, he added.

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) on Tuesday told the country's public broadcaster Yle that Finland might be forced to consider joining NATO without its long-time ally Sweden, due to opposition from Ankara, though tripartite discussions on the issue may follow soon.

Both Sweden and Finland announced last year their intentions of joining the alliance, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, ending a period of neutrality stretching back to the start of the Cold War for Finland, and as far back as the Napoleonic Wars in Sweden's case – though in actuality both countries have been NATO partner countries and engaged in military exercises for many years.

While Estonia moved very rapidly to ratify their membership of the alliance, and the other member states also ratified it, regardless of what avenue they use to do so (ie. via the legislature or via the executive), two hold-outs still remain – Hungary and Turkey. In the latter case, a major sticking point has been Ankara's claims that both countries and in particular Sweden harbor members of Kurdish terror groups which present a threat to Turkey.

Sweden in turn has been the scene of large-scale protests against Turkey in recent weeks, which reached a peak last weekend, when a far-right Danish-Swedish provocateur burned a copy of the Qu'ran, an act which sparked further unrest and, despite the fact that Turkey is a broadly secular nation, drew fierce criticism from Ankara.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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