Finland says to stick with Sweden in NATO process

FILE PHOTO: Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks during a news conference in Riga, Latvia January 25, 2023. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

HELSINKI (Reuters) -Finland is maintaining its plan to join NATO at the same time as Nordic neighbour Sweden, and hopes to do so no later than July, Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said on Monday.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan signalled on Sunday that Ankara could agree to Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden, amid growing tensions with Stockholm, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday made similar statements.

"Our strong wish is still to join NATO together with Sweden," Haavisto told a news conference in Helsinki.

Last week, Turkey suspended NATO talks with Sweden and Finland over protests in Stockholm that included the burning of a Koran.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and need all member countries' approval to join. Turkey and Hungary are yet to ratify the Nordic countries' membership.

"I still see the NATO summit in Vilnius in July as an important milestone when I hope that both counties will be accepted as NATO members at the latest," Haavisto said.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto in Helsinki, additional reporting by Simon Johnson in Stockholm, editing by Terje Solsvik and Christina Fincher)

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