Published: 2023-01-30 12:27
Last Updated: 2023-03-28 17:46
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said for the first time Sunday that Ankara could accept Finland into NATO without its Nordic neighbor Sweden.
Erdogan's comments during a televised meeting with younger voters came days after Ankara suspended NATO accession talks with the two countries.
Its decision threatened to derail NATO's hopes of expanding the bloc to 32 countries at a summit planned for July in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and applied to join the US-led defense alliance in response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
Turkey and Hungary remain the only members to have failed to ratify the two bids by votes in parliament.
The Hungarian legislature is expected to approve both bids in February.
But Erdogan has dug in his heels heading into a tightly contested May 14 election in which he is trying to energize his conservative and nationalist support base.
Erdogan's main complaint has been with Sweden's refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Ankara links to outlawed Kurdish militants and a failed 2016 coup attempt.
He drew a clear distinction on Sunday between the positions taken by Sweden and Finland in the past few months.
"If necessary, we can give a different response concerning Finland.
Sweden will be shocked when we give a different response for Finland," Erdogan said.
He also repeated his demand for Sweden to hand over suspects sought by Ankara.
"If you absolutely want to join NATO, you will return these terrorists to us," Erdogan said.