Turkey to approve Finland’s application to join NATO

Turkey will approve Finland’s application to join NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, a move that paves the way for the country to join the military bloc before Sweden.

The announcement comes as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is in Ankara to meet Erdogan. Both Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members 10 months ago after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leaving behind decades of neutrality.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of its existing 30 members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries that have yet to ratify the Nordic nations’ requests. The Turkish government accused both Sweden and Finland of being too soft on groups it considers to be terrorist organizations, but expressed further reservations about Sweden.

“When it comes to fulfilling its commitments in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken genuine and concrete steps,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara after meeting with Niinisto.

Due to “this sensitivity for the security of our country and, based on the progress that has been made in the protocol for Finland’s entry into NATO, we have decided to start the ratification process in our Parliament,” added the Turkish president.

With Erdogan’s consent, Finland’s request can now go to the Turkish parliament, where the president’s party and its allies have a majority. Ratification is expected before Turkey holds its presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May 14.

Erdogan suggested on Wednesday that his country could resume the membership of Finland after Niinisto’s trip.

Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed an agreement in June last year to resolve differences over the membership of the Nordic states.

The document included clauses addressing Ankara’s claims that Stockholm and Helsinki did not take seriously enough their problems in relation to whom it considers terrorists, particularly supporters of Kurdish militiamen who have waged a 39-year insurgency in Turkey and the people Ankara associates with a 2016 coup attempt.

A series of separate protests in Stockholm, including one by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Koran outside the Turkish embassy, ​​also angered Turkish officials.

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