Helsinki urges patience after Turkey says not supportive of Finland joining NATO

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto attends a news conference in Helsinki
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By Essi Lehto

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto urged patience on Friday and called for a step-by-step approach in response to Turkish resistance to Finnish and Swedish NATO membership.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier said NATO member Turkey could not support Finnish and Swedish plans to join the alliance, erecting a potential stumbling block as membership requires unanimous backing from all 30 member states.

"We need some patience in this type of process, it's not happening in one day ... Let's take issues step-by-step," Haavisto told reporters.

Erdogan's statement appeared to come as a surprise to Finland after Haavisto had visited Turkey twice in recent months and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto spoke on the phone with Erdogan in early April.

After that call, Niinisto tweeted "Turkey supports Finland's goals."

Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin kicked off Finland's NATO application process on Thursday by announcing they were both in favour of joining the alliance, a major policy shift driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto, writing by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Terje Solsvik)

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