President Sauli Niinistö reacted at a press conference organised in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Sunday, 15 May 2022. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


PRESIDENT Sauli Niinistö on Sunday said in the Presidential Palace he is “a bit confused” about the messages sent by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the expected Finnish and Swedish applications to join Nato.

Erdoğan on Friday stated that Turkey does not feel positively about Sweden and Finland joining Nato, apparently accusing the countries of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Niinistö said the statement seems to contradict what he and his counterpart discussed over the phone roughly a month earlier. Erdoğan, he revealed, brought up the membership question during the phone call before he had the opportunity to do so, saying Turkey would assess the application “favourably”.

“To be frank, I’m a bit confused,” he said. “What we heard two days ago was different, and yesterday we again heard that Turkey is open to our membership, but it turned back to […] negative.”

“I think that what we need now is a very clear answer. I’m prepared to have a new discussion with President Erdoğan about the problems he has raised.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) revealed he talked extensively with his Turkish counterpart during a working dinner held in connection with an informal meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Berlin on 14–15 May.

“It was possible for Finland to tell that because the PKK is on the EU’s terrorist list, it’s also on Finland’s terrorist list,” he said.

Niinistö was yesterday also asked to shed light on his phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.

He began his answer by revealing why he decided to call his Russian counterpart: “Neither I nor Finland is someone who sneaks around, who quietly disappears behind the corner. The overall tone of the phone call was maybe a bit surprising: it was rather calm and quite declarative. When I noted that we’ve already decided with the government [to apply for the membership], the answer was roughly what you could expect – it was declarative.”

“Putin noted that it was a mistake, nothing was threatening you.”

Niinistö viewed that the reactions he heard yesterday were more moderate than what had been heard before from Russia. “What could be the cause? It may well be that they’ve noticed that we’re far along [in the membership process], that only the [final] decision is missing.”

“The other and perhaps more noteworthy aspect may be that [the reactions] raise the question, does official Russia want to introduce questions like these to the public discussion in Russia? It may well be that they’d rather avoid it. [Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey] Lavrov did not mention this in his speech yesterday – and he spoke after our phone call.”

“And then there may be the third motive: that this is genuinely their position.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT