Turkey has indefinitely postponed a new round of talks with Sweden and Finland on the Nordic neighbours’ NATO membership bids in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, according to Turkish state TV.
The meeting scheduled to take place in Brussels was postponed at Ankara’s request, the state broadcaster said on Tuesday. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was also expected to attend the talks slated to be held next month.
Turkey’s decision came a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden he would not support its bid to join the Western US-led defence alliance after the burning of the Quran by a Swedish far-right leader during 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.