"No national security issue is now more important to the country than Sweden and Finland joining NATO quickly," says Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (M) at a press conference.

"I want to urge everyone in Sweden to realize the seriousness of this for real," says the Prime Minister.

'A very broad majority has decided that Sweden and Finland will join NATO. This must happen as soon as possible', says Kristersson.
"A very broad majority has decided that Sweden and Finland will join NATO. This must happen as soon as possible," says Kristersson.

Ulf Kristersson points out that freedom of expression applies in Sweden.

"This threatens peace in our part of the world. In Sweden, freedom of expression applies fully. This is what we want to defend. A very broad majority has decided that Sweden and Finland will join NATO. It must happen as soon as possible", says Kristersson.

TT: Are you talking to NATO countries other than Turkey about how they can help Sweden in the process?

"All the time and long since," Kristersson answered.

TT: Could they do more?

"We have had a constant dialog with all the other states in the NATO community and it has of course been a fairly easy task, since they have shown great commitment to Sweden and Finland's applications," says Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström (M)

"Understandable position"

Ulf Kristersson says that Finland has made it clear that Finland's entry into NATO must not be hindered if Sweden is permanently excluded from NATO membership.

"This is an understandable position. We understand the frustration that many people in Finland are currently feeling that at this point they have not yet joined NATO. We take on board the very clear message that Finland still wants to join NATO together with Sweden," says the Prime Minister.

Kristersson has held a meeting with the National Security Council prior to the press conference, where Billström and Minister of Defense Pål Jonson (M) have also participated.

Billström says that the government obviously defends freedom of expression, but at the same time it must be understood that it is disrespectful to burn a quran.

"Even NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Finland have stressed that quran burning is a burden," he says.

"Maximum weight"

Billström points out that the security situation is the most serious it has been in a long time. It is therefore now of the utmost importance that events such as these do not get in the way of the NATO process, he believes.

The statements follow the events of the past few days following the burning of a quran by right-wing extremist provocateur Rasmus Paludan outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

According to the foreign minister, there are rumors about campaigns against Sweden in social media.

"The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is not aware of any official initiatives to boycott Swedish goods but notes that calls in this direction occur in social media", says Billström.

The Turkish President, Mr Erdogan, stated on Monday that the Swedish NATO application cannot expect Turkey's support, the reason for which was the great outrage following the quran burning.

Turkey stops meeting

Mr Billström commented earlier on Tuesday on the statement that the government is now going to analyze what they mean, and that it must be taken into account that there will soon be elections in Turkey.

On Tuesday afternoon, Turkish media, including government believers Daily Sabah, reported that Turkey decided to pause future meetings between Turkey, Sweden and Finland indefinitely. Already in February, it was planned that the next meeting would have been held.

NATO talks between the countries have been organized under a mechanism established last August.

Important for Finland

On Tuesday morning, Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto stated in a TV interview with Yle that it might be appropriate for Finland to consider moving forward alone in the NATO process.

However, the tone was different when he held a press conference in Helsinki a few hours later. The Finnish Foreign Minister then stressed that it is important for NATO's defense planning that the two Nordic countries become members at the same time. Sweden has a major influence on how the defense alliance can assist Finland or the Baltic countries in a military conflict.

Haavisto also stressed that a common NATO entry is important in order to deepen Swedish-Finnish defense cooperation. The two countries are conducting simultaneous talks with the US on enhanced defense cooperation.

Facts: The tone from Turkey hardens

Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO countries that have not yet ratified the Swedish and Finnish applications.

While the tone from Turkey has hardened, Hungary has signaled that it is in favor of Sweden and Finland in NATO. An approval is expected in the Hungarian Parliament this spring.

Sweden and Finland last summer concluded an agreement with Turkey on a number of points that must be met in order for Turkey to give the green light to their NATO applications.

The agreement was signed on June 28 in Madrid. At the same time, Turkey released its veto against Sweden's and Finland's NATO membership.

As future NATO countries, Sweden and Finland are committed to supporting Turkey with regard to threats to its national security.

Sweden and Finland shall not provide support to the Kurdish YPG/PYD or the Gülen movement, and shall also unequivocally condemn all terrorist organizations carrying out attacks on Turkey.

Sweden and Finland will also treat ongoing and unsolved extradition requirements of persons like Turkey as terrorist suspects "quickly and carefully."

The countries also state in the agreement that there should be no arms embargoes between them.