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Turkey to hold NATO membership talks with Sweden, Finland in March

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Turkey said on Monday that NATO accession talks with Sweden and Finland would be held next month, after being postponed in January over a row about protests held in Stockholm, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The meeting will be held on March 9,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a news conference in Ankara, alongside his Hungarian counterpart.

Bids to join NATO must be ratified by all members of the alliance, of which Turkey is a member.

But Ankara was outraged by the protests in January that included the burning of the Muslim holy book of Quran outside its embassy in Stockholm.

In turn Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned Sweden he would not support its bid to join the Western US-led defense alliance.

Erdoğan has dug in his heels heading into a close presidential election in which he is trying to energize his nationalist electoral base.

Previous two rounds of the tri-party NATO talks were attended by foreign ministry officials and focused on a specific list of Turkish demands, which include the expulsion of dozens of mostly Kurdish suspects.

Çavuşoğlu said the third planned meeting would be held in Brussels.

“It’s not possible for us to give consent (to a NATO bid) before Sweden fulfils its commitments” under a three-party protocol signed in Madrid in June, he said.

Çavuşoğlu also made it clear that Turkey looked warmly on Finland’s bid.

“We may separate Sweden and Finland’s membership process,” he said.

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