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“Time-out” is necessary in negotiations with Turkey on NATO membership

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Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavista arrives at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bucharest, Romania on November 30, 2022.

Daniel Mihailescu | Afp | Getty Images

Finland demands a “time-out” in negotiations with Turkey on the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO after a series of events between Turkey and Sweden a new tension and acrimony erupted.

“There needs to be a time-out before we go back to the trilateral talks and see where we end up when the dust settles after the current situation, so no conclusions should be drawn yet… I think there will be a break for a while. couple of weeks,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavista said in an interview with Reuters published on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Sweden should not expect his country’s support for joining NATO after it allowed a far-right demonstration and the burning of a Koran in Stockholm, in front of the Turkish embassy.

“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer count on our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said.

The burning of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, was led by Rasmus Paludan, who heads the Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Swedish authorities say the protest was legal under the country’s free speech laws, but Sweden’s leaders have condemned the act, calling it “appalling”.

Protesters hold lighted torches during the demonstration. A group of people demonstrated outside the Swedish consulate in Beyoglu after Rasmus Paludan, the leader of Denmark’s far-right political party Hard Line and a Swedish citizen, burned a Holy Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

Onur Dogman | Images of Sopa | Lightrocket | Getty Images

The Islamophobic demonstration drew angry reactions and condemnation from a number of Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, and sparked a Muslim protest outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul.

A sign in the window of the Swedish consulate in Istanbul read in large letters: “We do not share the view of this book-burning idiot!!”

A banner on the window of the Consulate General of Sweden reads: “We do not share the view of this book-burning idiot”, while supporters of the Free Action Party (Huda Par) and the Kuran Nesli Platformu (Kuran Nesli Platformu) stage a protest against the burning of the Koran near of the Consulate General in Istanbul on Sunday, Turkey, January 22, 2023.

Elif Ozturk Ozgoncu | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Roadblock in NATO

Sweden and Finland have taken another step in the direction of joining NATO, that is, only formal ratification of the agreement on their accession remains.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Finland and Sweden have signed a trilateral agreement with Turkey to work to overcome Turkey’s opposition to the Nordic countries’ NATO membership. But the last scheduled meetings were canceled after the Koran burning incident and after a protest by Kurdish activists in Sweden a few days earlier in which Erdogan was hanged upside down on a rope.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin recently said Sweden has eight to 10 weeks to make the changes Ankara is demanding as Turkey’s parliament may go on recess ahead of the country’s crucial May 14 presidential election. Sweden says it needs another six months to make those changes.

Analysts polled by CNBC do not expect major changes in Turkey’s position before the elections.

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