April 13. 2024. 5:26

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Sweden, Finland go ‘hand in hand’ as Nordics close ranks against Turkey

Sweden and Finland will continue their journey towards NATO together despite the “frustrating” stall that Turkey is creating for Sweden, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin said on Thursday.

Erdoğan said he would now only support Finnish NATO membership but not Sweden’s over the Quran burning issue and Stockholm’s refusal to deport some 130 people it considers terrorists, mainly Kurds, that it blames for the 2016 coup d’etat attempt.

Although Helsinki made it clear this week that Finland stands by its neighbours’ side on the matter through declarations of the country’s President Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, Prime Minister Sanna Marin sent a clear message during her visit to Stockholm on Thursday.

“The journey must be made hand in hand, as we started it,” Marin said, adding that Sweden, like Finland, meets all the requirements for its NATO application to be approved.

“I don’t like the prevailing atmosphere, where Sweden is portrayed as a troublemaker. Sweden is not a troublemaker,” she said.

Sweden’s Kristersson echoed her Finnish counterpart, stating that Finland and Sweden “started the journey together” and will continue it together. He added however that he “understands and shares the frustration” caused by the protracted process – but urged calm.

The official visit of the Finnish prime minister took place in a general context of exasperation of the Nordics towards Erdoğan and his demands. On Thursday, two other NATO Nordic countries stepped in to back Sweden in the NATO process, as evidenced by Norway’s Labour Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

“Sweden has our full support and President Erdoğan knows that, but it is also important to avoid escalating the conflict,” said the Norwegian prime minister.

Iceland’s Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir also regretted the developments in Turkey’s stance towards Sweden’s application.

“I had hoped that Turkey would not make demands in the way it is now doing,” she told Swedish radio.

(Charles Szumski | EURACTIV.com)