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HELSINKI — Finland’s high diplomat appeared to recommend Tuesday that the nation could have to think about becoming a member of NATO with out Sweden after Turkey’s president cast serious doubt on the expansion of the navy alliance.

“We still have to evaluate the situation if it turns out that Sweden’s application is stalling for a long time to come,” Overseas Minister Pekka Haavisto advised Finnish broadcaster YLE.

His remark got here a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden to not count on assist for its bid for NATO membership following weekend protests in Stockholm by an anti-Islam activist and pro-Kurdish teams.

It was the primary time a number one authorities official in both nation had appeared to lift doubts about becoming a member of the alliance collectively. Haavisto later backpedaled, telling reporters in Parliament that his remark earlier Tuesday had been “imprecise” and that Finland’s ambition to hitch NATO collectively with Sweden remained unchanged.

He mentioned he had spoken with NATO Secretary-Common Jens Stoltenberg, who had careworn to Haavisto that the navy bloc want to see the 2 Nordic nations be a part of concurrently.

“But of course there have been raised concerns within NATO on how the (recent) incidents in Sweden will affect the schedule,” Haavisto mentioned.

The bid by Sweden and Finland to hitch NATO wants the approval of all current NATO members, together with Turkey, which has up to now blocked the growth, saying Sweden specifically must crack down on exiled Kurdish militants and their sympathizers.

Till now, Sweden and Finland have been dedicated to becoming a member of the alliance collectively, however Haavisto’s remark to YLE raised considerations that Finland was contemplating continuing with out its Nordic neighbor.

“We are in contact with Finland to find out what is really meant,” Swedish Overseas Minister Tobias Billström mentioned in a press release to The Related Press. “Sweden respects the agreement between Sweden, Finland and Turkey regarding our NATO membership. We have done that so far and we shall continue to do so.”

In a memorandum of understanding signed by the three nations at a NATO summit final 12 months, Sweden and Finland dedicated to not assist Kurdish militant teams and to carry arms embargos on Turkey imposed after its incursion into northern Syria in 2019.

Professional-Kurdish and anti-Turkish demonstrations in Stockholm have sophisticated the method. On Saturday, a far-right activist from Denmark staged a protest outdoors the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm the place he burned the Quran, Islam’s holy guide. A separate pro-Kurdish demonstration was held later Saturday within the Swedish capital.

The Swedish authorities has tried to distance itself from the demonstrations, whereas insisting that such protests are allowed beneath the nation’s freedom of speech.

Turkey responded angrily to the protests, canceling a deliberate go to to Ankara by the Swedish protection minister. Protests had been held outdoors Swedish diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul.

Erdogan slammed Swedish authorities for permitting the Quran-burning demonstration.

“It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application,” he mentioned.

He additionally criticized the pro-Kurdish demonstration, accusing Sweden of letting “terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets.” He mentioned that if Sweden gained’t present respect to Turkey or Muslims, then “they won’t see any support from us on the NATO issue.”

___ Jan M. Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark.

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About Jari Tanner and Jan M. Olsen | AP

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