Turkey’s reservations on Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids can be resolved with the help of constructive talks, said Finland’s president on Tuesday.
Speaking in the Swedish parliament, the Rigksdag, Sauli Niinisto said: "The statements from Turkey have changed and hardened very quickly in recent days."
He added: "But I am sure that, with the help of constructive talks, we will resolve the situation.”
On the factors that pushed Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership after decades of opposition, Niinisto said they are taking these "historic steps in the shadow of brutal war," referring to Russia’s nearly four-month-old war on Ukraine.
"December last year marked the beginning of a course of events that revolutionized our security policy environment," he said. "Russia's demand to stop NATO enlargement was aimed at reducing our freedom of choice and our sovereignty. This put us in a new position."
Among Russia’s justifications for starting the war – most criticized by Western countries as being mere pretexts – is Ukraine being close to joining NATO, though its membership bid was in the earliest stages.
Niinisto underlined that Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine showed that Moscow is "ready to use its armed forces in its immediate areas to achieve its goals."
"The sum of these factors showed that our traditional positioning was unsustainable," he added.
Saying that Finland and Sweden are acting together in the NATO membership process, Niinisto said they will jointly apply for NATO membership.
Turkey, a longstanding NATO member, has voiced objections to Finland and Sweden’s membership bids, criticizing the two Nordic countries for tolerating and even supporting terror groups like the YPG/PKK.
The Turkish Justice Ministry, in line with court verdicts, requested from Finland the extradition of 12 terrorists – half affiliated with the PKK terror group, and half with the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the defeated coup of 2016.
Both Finland and Sweden "must stop supporting terror groups," and give clear security guarantees to Ankara to become NATO members, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday. He underlined that NATO is a security alliance in which member states should show solidarity with each other.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
FETO and its US-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey, in which 251 people were killed and 2,734 injured.
The Turkish government accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
Senior representatives of Sweden and Finland are set to visit Turkey in the coming days to hold official talks in Ankara to discuss NATO membership applications, according to the Swedish Foreign Ministry.