Ankara [Turkey], January 30 (ANI): After Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara may accept Helsinki into NATO without Stockholm, according to Anadolu Agency.
"We may respond differently to Finland if necessary. Sweden would be shocked when we respond differently to Finland. But Finland should not make the same mistake," Erdogan said while addressing the youth in the country's Bilecik province.
Earlier, Sweden and Finland jointly applied to join NATO, but Turkey has so far blocked the expansion, citing concerns that Sweden needs to crack down on exiled Kurdish militants and their sympathisers and extradite critics of Turkish President Erdogan, reported Euronews.
In the meeting, Ankara gave a list of 120 people to Sweden for extradition to Turkey, President Erdogan said, "You need to extradite these terrorists so that you can enter NATO," according to the Anadolu Agency.
Meanwhile, in the US, talking about the candidacies of Sweden and Finland for NATO, the US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said America has been very clear about its views on Finland and Sweden's candidacies for NATO membership in public, as well as in private.
"The issue between Sweden and Finland is not a bilateral issue. We have been very clear in public, and we have been very clear in private about our views on Finland and Sweden's candidacies for NATO membership. We believe they are ready, we believe they should be added to the world's strongest defense alliance at the earliest possible opportunity," he said.
Responding to a media query on Finland and Sweden returning to functional dialogue on NATO membership, the US State Department spokesperson said that the US will continue to voice its support for the candidature of the two Nordic countries.
"We can continue to voice our support for their candidacies. We can continue to engage in a public and in private with Turkey and make it clear that we believe that these two countries are ready. That they are prepared, that they should be admitted to the alliance at any possible opportunity," Price added.
On Tuesday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto indicated that Finland may have to join NATO without Sweden after Ankara cast doubts on the expansion of the alliance over anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm.
The joint bid by Sweden and Finland to join NATO requires the approval of all existing members, including Turkey.
Until now, the two countries have been committed to joining the alliance together, but Haavisto's comment suggests that this may no longer be the case. (ANI)