Turkey to hold NATO bid talks with Sweden, Finland in March

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds application documents presented by Finland's Ambassador to NATO Klaus Korhonen and Sweden's Ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff during a ceremony to mark Sweden's and Finland's application for membership in Brussels, on 18 May, 2022AFP

Turkey said on Monday that NATO accession talks with Sweden and Finland would be held next month, after being postponed in January over a row about protests held in Stockholm.

"The meeting will be held on 9 March," Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara, alongside his Hungarian counterpart.

Bids to join NATO must be ratified by all members of the alliance, of which Turkey is a member.

But Ankara was outraged by the protests in January that included the burning of the Koran outside its embassy in Stockholm.

In turn Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden he would not support its bid to join the Western US-led defence alliance.

Erdogan has dug in his heels heading into a close presidential election in which he is trying to energise his nationalist electoral base.

Previous two rounds of the tri-party NATO talks were attended by foreign ministry officials and focused on a specific list of Turkish demands, which include the expulsion of dozens of mostly Kurdish suspects.

Cavusoglu said the third planned meeting would be held in Brussels.

"It's not possible for us to give consent (to a NATO bid) before Sweden fulfils its commitments" under a three-party protocol signed in Madrid in June, he said.

Cavusoglu also made it clear that Turkey looked warmly on Finland's bid.

"We may separate Sweden and Finland's membership process," he said.