West News Wire: In the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine in February, Turkey has indefinitely postponed a new round of negotiations with Sweden and Finland on the Nordic neighbors’ applications for NATO membership.
According to the official TV on Tuesday, Ankara asked for the Brussels conference to be postponed. The talks scheduled for next month were also anticipated to include participation from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Turkey’s decision came after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave Sweden a day to withdraw its application to join the Western US-led defense alliance in the wake of a far-right leader in Sweden burning the Quran, the holy book of Muslims over the weekend.
Bids to join NATO must be ratified by all members of the alliance, of which Turkey is a member.
Swedish-Turkish ties have recently been tense and Ankara has been outraged by the burning of the Quran outside its embassy in Stockholm.
The protest was approved by the Swedish authorities, despite Turkey’s fierce objections.
Erdogan’s comments and Tuesday’s postponement diminish Sweden and Finland’s prospects of joining the bloc before Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential polls in May.
Finland hinted for the first time on Tuesday that it might consider joining NATO without Sweden because of Stockholm’s diplomatic problems with Ankara.
The Biden administration on Tuesday reiterated that it supports Finland and Sweden joining NATO at the earliest opportunity.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing that he would not entertain the question of Finland’s possible accession without Sweden after Turkey’s president said Sweden should not expect his country’s support.
Previous rounds of the triparty NATO talks have been attended by foreign ministry officials and focused on a specific list of Turkish demands, which include the expulsion of dozens of mostly Kurdish suspects.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members not to have ratified the Nordic neighbours’ historic decision to break their tradition of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has promised his parliament would approve the two bids next month.