Türkiye to begin ratifying Finland's NATO bid as Sweden talks continue

Wang Xinjuan
2023-03-18 17:26:32

By Louise Greenwood

Türkiye's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. /Reuters/Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout

Türkiye has agreed to begin the process of ratifying Finland's accession to the NATO bloc, at a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Finnish counterpart in Ankara.

Turkish President Erdogan stated "We have decided to start the protocol of Finland's accession to NATO in our parliament. 

"My wish is that this decision will be good for our countries and our alliance."

Speaking alongside him, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto welcomed the decision, calling it "very important" for his country.

Finland, along with Sweden, ended decades of post-war neutrality by applying to join NATO last May in the wake of Russia's conflict with Ukraine. 

The conflict has sparked wider security fears across the Nordic and Baltic regions, particularly in Finland which shares a 1,300 kilometer land border with Russia.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto welcomed the decision, calling it "very important" for his country. /Reuters/Presidential Press Office/Handout

The bids, which require the approval of all thirty NATO members, had both been blocked by Türkiye and Hungary. 

Ankara accuses the two Nordic states of harboring militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), along with members of the Islamic Gulenist sect that Türkiye's ruling AKP blames for the failed military coup of  July 2016.  

Talks with Sweden stalled in January when a far-right nationalist burned a copy of the Quran close to the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. 

President Erdogan used Friday's event in Ankara to again call on Sweden to hand over 120 individuals he called "terrorists'' after formal extraction attempts floundered in the courts.

Finland and Sweden had committed to joining the bloc together, but earlier this week Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson conceded that this had become unlikely, saying "(we) will ratify in different steps."

The Swedish parliament, which is currently debating a new anti-terrorism bill, has appealed to Türkiye for more time to codify legislation. 

However, Ankara has already indicated that the draft bill does not go far enough to satisfy its demands. 

Finland's NATO bid is expected to proceed to the Turkish parliament for endorsement, before the Republic goes to the polls in May's general election. 

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party says Finland's membership bid is likely to be approved at a parliamentary vote within a fortnight.  

Sweden now faces attending NATO's forthcoming July summit in Lithuania as a non-member state. Speaking in Ankara, President Niinisto said he hoped this outcome could still be avoided, telling reporters that the NATO alliance would "not be complete without Sweden."

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