Erdogan pulls rug from under Putin as Turkey in crunch talks over Russia's worst nightmare

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The move could clear the way for the nordic countries to join the defence alliance and help fight the threat from Russia. Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the first meeting between officials would aim to establish contacts and set goals for cooperation that the three countries agreed to by signing a memorandum of understanding at NATO’s Madrid summit at the end of June.

The two Nordic countries applied for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but were faced with inital opposition from Turkey.

Ankara accused them of imposing arms embargoes on them and supporting groups it deems terrorists.

But Turkey lifted its opposition to the NATO membership applications from Finland and Sweden in June. 

Finland’s foreign ministry remained tight-lipped about Friday’s meeting, refusing to reveal its location or even timing.

Mr Haavisto’s state secretary Jukka Salovaara told Finland’s public broadcaster YLE: “This is a matter of security. If we would tell where Turkey’s high officials are at which time, it would give quite a careless picture of us.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has demanded Sweden and Finland extradite suspects Turkey seeks over terrorism-related charges while the Nordic countries argue they did not agree to any specific extraditions by signing the memorandum.

READ MORE: Turkey handed masterplan to outsmart Putin as ‘gas bonanza’ discovered

The NATO membership applications from Sweden and Finland had previously faced heavy opposition from Turkey’s Government, which is led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The country’s leadership, citing concerns over the countries’ alleged support for Kurdish groups and arms exports, had been furiously against the move. 

Putin has previously issued warnings that Russia would respond in kind if NATO set up military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden.

The Russian president told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat: “We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine. We don’t have territorial differences.

“If Finland and Sweden wish to, they can join. That’s up to them. They can join whatever they want.”

However, he warned “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us”.

Russia has repeatedly warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO, saying the “serious military and political consequences” would see it “restore military balance” by strengthening its defences in the Baltic Sea region. 

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