Finnish president Sauli Niinisto 'optimistic' of NATO deal with Turkey

Finnish president Sauli Niinisto 'optimistic' of NATO deal with Turkey

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Tuesday he was 'optimistic' Finland and Sweden would be able to secure Turkey's support for their NATO membership bids, despite Ankara's last-minute objections.

"I am confident that with the help of constructive talks, the situation will be resolved", Niinisto told Sweden's parliament in a speech, later adding during a question period: "I'm optimistic".

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block the alliance's expansion, accusing Helsinki and Stockholm of harbouring militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

"We will not say 'yes' to those (countries) who apply sanctions to Turkey to join security organisation NATO," Erdogan said Monday.

Any NATO membership bid must be unanimously approved by the alliance's 30 members.

Sweden and Finland have been caught off-guard by Ankara's objections, with both saying they had previously received positive signals from all NATO countries.

Niinisto said that during a conversation with Erdogan a month ago, the Turkish leader said his country "was favourable" to Finland's bid.

And then "this past week he said 'not favourable'."

A diplomatic source said Turkey blocked a NATO declaration on Monday in favour of Sweden and Finland's membership and that Erdogan alone took the decision.

Sweden and Finland have sent delegations to Turkey to meet with Turkish officials.

"They say they will come to Turkey on Monday. Will they come to persuade us? Excuse us, but they shouldn't bother," Erdogan responded.

* Stories are edited and translated by Info3 *
Non info3 articles reflect solely the opinion of the author or original source and do not necessarily reflect the views of Info3