Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto arrives for the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, November 30, 2022.

Daniel Mihailescu | AFP | Getty Images

Finland is calling for a “time-out” in talks with Turkey over Finland and Sweden joining NATO after a series of events between Turkey and Sweden sparked new tensions and acrimony.

“A time out is necessary before we return to the tripartite talks and see where we stand when the dust settles from the current situation, so no conclusions should be drawn just yet… I think there will be a few weeks’ pause,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Reuters in an interview published on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Sweden should not count on helping his country join NATO after allowing a far-right demonstration and a Koran burning in Stockholm outside the Turkish embassy.

“Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer count on our support for their NATO membership,” Erdogan said.

The burning of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, was spearheaded by Rasmus Paludan, who heads Denmark’s far-right political party Hard Line. Swedish authorities say the protest was legal under the country’s free speech laws, but the Swedish leadership condemned the act, calling it “appalling”.

The anti-Islam demonstration drew angry reactions and condemnation from a number of Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, and sparked a protest by Muslims outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul.

A sign in a window of the Swedish consulate in Istanbul read in capital letters: “We do not share the view of this book burner!!”

Roadblock to NATO

Finland and Sweden have announced their intention to simultaneously join the NATO alliance since May 2022, resolutely dropping long-held non-aligned policies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The addition of a new member to the 73-year-old alliance requires the unanimous approval of all 30 current members; Turkey is the only member most vocal in opposing the new entry.

Sweden and Finland have taken another step towards joining NATO, which means that their accession agreement has only to be formally ratified.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images “Time out” needed for talks with Turkey about NATO membership