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The Finnish foreign minister does not expect progress on the NATO membership bids of his country and Sweden before Turkey’s elections in May, but believes the Scandinavian nations remain on course for eventually joining the military alliance, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reported Saturday.

“In my view, the road to NATO has not closed for either country,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said, according to Yle. 

Finland and Sweden are seeking to join NATO after Moscow’s assault on Ukraine sparked renewed security concern across the region. But Turkey has previously raised objections — and under NATO rules, just one member state can veto a new applicant’s membership.

Haavisto’s remarks come days after Ankara called for a three-way meeting in February between Turkey, Sweden and Finland to be postponed, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber, which cited unnamed diplomatic sources. 

How it got to this point: Turkish-Swedish relations suffered a major blow last week after Stockholm Police authorized a protest outside Stockholm’s Turkish Embassy last Saturday, in which anti-immigration politician Rasmus Paludan set a copy of the Quran on fire. Protesters quickly took to the streets in the Turkish capital, where some burned the Sweden’s flag outside its embassy in response.   

Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu reported Thursday that the meeting around Sweden and Finland’s NATO applications was postponed in light of the current “unhealthy political environment.” 

The three countries have met in the past under the “trilateral memorandum” to discuss Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership requests.  

An upcoming visit by the Swedish defense minister to Turkey was also canceled by Ankara in the immediate wake of the incident last Saturday. 

Speaking to CNN’s Isa Soares on Tuesday, the Finnish foreign minister said “there is some kind of delay because of recent events,” adding “of course, this is not good news.” 

Haavisto indicated there are no plans for Finland to proceed with its NATO membership bid without its Nordic neighbor. “We are not in a hurry, we have time to go together with Sweden,” he told CNN. 

CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Amy Cassidy contributed reporting to this post.



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