ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey could evaluate Finland's NATO bid independently from that of Sweden, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday, after protests including the burning of a Koran in Stockholm sparked outrage in Ankara.
"It is a fair approach to set a difference between a problematic country and a less problematic one. We can evaluate (Finnish and Swedish) NATO applications separately if NATO and those countries make a decision about it," Cavusoglu said.
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.
President Tayyip Erdogan has thrust the debate over NATO expansion into a campaign ahead of Turkey's tight presidential and parliamentary elections in May, rallying his supporters.
Turkey is never against NATO's expansion, Cavusoglu added. But the steps taken by Sweden according to a trilateral agreement signed last year are not enough, he said.
Last week, Turkey suspended NATO talks with Sweden and Finland over the protests in Stockholm. Erdogan signalled on Sunday that Ankara may agree to Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden.
Turkey says Sweden, in particular, harbours what it says are militants from the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)