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Finland, Sweden to send teams to Turkey to discuss NATO bids, Haavisto says

FILE PHOTO: Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto signs a petition for NATO membership application in Helsinki, Finland May 17, 2022. Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/via REUTERS

Finland and Sweden will send delegations to Ankara on Wednesday to try to resolve Turkish opposition to their applications for membership of the NATO military alliance, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday.

"We are sending our delegations to visit Ankara, actually both Sweden and Finland. This will happen tomorrow, so the dialogue is continuing," Haavisto said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has objected to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, held phone calls with the leaders of the two Nordic countries on Saturday and discussed his concerns.

Turkey says Sweden and Finland harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

"We understand that Turkey has some of their own security concerns vis a vis terrorism ... We think that these issues can be settled. There might be also some issues that are not linked directly to Finland and Sweden but more to other NATO members," Haavisto said.

Erdogan told Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Saturday that Ankara expected concrete steps to address its concerns, according to the Turkish presidency. He also said an arms exports embargo imposed on Turkey after its Syria incursion in 2019 should be lifted, it added.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Saturday he had held "open and direct" talks on the phone with Erdogan.

"I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other's security and our relationship will thus grow stronger," Niinisto tweeted after the call.

Erdogan spoke also with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday, telling him that Ankara would not look positively on Sweden and Finland's NATO bids unless they clearly show cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other issues.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Macfie)