By Diyar Guldogan
ANKARA (AA) - Türkiye may respond "differently" to Finland's NATO bid which would "shock" Sweden, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
"We may respond differently to Finland if necessary. Sweden would be shocked when we respond differently to Finland. But Finland should not make the same mistake," Erdogan said at a meeting with the youth in the country's Bilecik province.
Ankara gave a list of 120 people to Sweden for extradition to Türkiye, Erdogan said, adding: "You need to extradite these terrorists so that you can enter NATO."
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24, 2022.
But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Türkiye.
Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.
In the memorandum, Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide support to the YPG/PYD and FETO, to prevent all activities of the terror groups, the extradition of terror suspects, to introduce new legislation to punish terrorist crimes, and not to implement national arms embargoes among the three countries.
- 'Quran burning shows how ignoble they are'
On the burning of a copy of the Quran in Sweden, Erdogan said: "Did they wipe out Islam by burning our Quran?...They just showed how ignoble they are. Denmark did the same."
On Friday, Swedish-Danish politician Rasmus Paludan, the leader of the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) Party, burned a copy of the Quran in front of a mosque in Denmark.
The Islamophobic act came days after the far-right leader burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden, during a police-approved protest.
He also announced he would burn the holy book of the Muslims every Friday until Sweden is included in the NATO alliance.
Global condemnations have poured in with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson condemning Paludan’s actions as "deeply disrespectful."
The desecration of the Quran prompted strong protests in the Muslim world, with Türkiye calling Paludan an “Islam-hating charlatan” and strongly condemned the permission given by the authorities for the provocative act which it said, "clearly constitutes a hate crime."
- Türkiye, Russia, Syria meeting
Turning to the relations with Russia, Erdogan said there is a mutual respect in Türkiye's relations with Russia.
"Although we can't get the result we want in the developments in northern Syria right now, we say, 'Come, let's have some tripartite meetings now.' What are these? Let's come together as a trio, Russia, Türkiye, Syria. We can even add Iran to this. Let Iran also come.
"Let's have our talks in this way and peace will come to the region," Erdogan said.
Previously, Erdogan said the leaders of Türkiye, Russia and Syria could also meet to discuss peace and stability in Syria.
Although no date or location has yet been announced, the foreign ministers of the trio are expected to hold a meeting, which would mark another high-level of talks since the Syrian civil war began in early 2011.
On Dec. 28, the Turkish, Russian, and Syrian defense ministers met in Moscow to discuss counterterrorism efforts in Syria, and they agreed to continue tripartite meetings to ensure stability in Syria and the wider region.
- F-35 fighter jets
Erdogan repeated his call on the US to keep its promise on the F-35 fighter jets.
"Regarding the F-16s, we want this from you, but you don't give it. You said F-35, but you didn't keep your word. Although we paid about $1.4 billion, you give nothing in return.
"If you give nothing in return, then this will have a price," Erdogan said.
Turkish-US relations have been strained in recent years due to US support for the YPG/PKK terror group in northern Syria and disagreements concerning Türkiye’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system in 2017.
In 2019, under then-President Donald Trump, the US suspended Türkiye from the F-35 fighter jet program after objecting to its buying Russian S-400 missile defense system, claiming the Russian system would endanger the fighter jets.
Türkiye has said repeatedly that there is no conflict between the two, and proposed a commission to study the issue. Türkiye also said it fulfilled its obligations on the F-35s and that its suspension was against the rules.
Ankara also made a request to Washington in 2021 for 40 F-16 jets and modernization kits. The State Department informally notified Congress of the potential sale.
Ankara maintains that the fighter jets would strengthen not only Türkiye, but also NATO.
- 'France is loosing credibility'
Upon a question regarding Erdogan's previous invitation of France to the Organization of Turkic States, Erdogan said President Emmanuel Macron is "not honest".
"We want that international politics should be built on honesty. Where there is no honesty, there is no dignity. Of course, there are many such leaders in the world.
"Unfortunately, in the relations with Greece in the Mediterranean, they ignore Türkiye and enter into different relations with them," Erdogan said.
He added France is rapidly losing its reputation in Africa, including in Mali and Burkina Faso.
"Now, he (President Emanuel Macron) has lost his credibility in the parliament...France is constantly losing credibility. It is losing credibility in the international community as well," Erdogan said.
Stressing that Türkiye's relations with the Turkic Republics, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, are increasing day by day, Erdogan said Ankara is doing its part not only for the Turkic Republics, but also for the relations with Libya, as well.