Turkey gives Finland the green light for NATO, but not Sweden

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his government will move forward with ratifying Finland’s NATO accession protocol, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc ahead of Sweden.

The progress was marked during a visit to Ankara by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto where he met with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan. Both Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members 10 months ago, shortly after the Russian attack on Ukraine began.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of its 30 member states to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only ones that have not yet ratified the accession protocols of the two Nordic countries. The Turkish government has accused Sweden and Finland of being too soft on groups it considers terrorist organizations, but has expressed more reservations about Sweden.

“When it comes to fulfilling its promises under the tripartite memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Mr Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara after his meeting with Mr Niinisto.

“This sensitivity for the security of our country and based on the progress that has been made in the protocol for Finland’s membership in NATO, so we have decided to start the ratification process in our parliament”, added the Turkish president.

With the deal with Mr Erdogan, Finland’s application can now go to the Turkish parliament, where the president’s party and its allies hold a majority, for approval. Ratification is expected before Turkey holds presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May 14.

Commenting on Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying the protocol for Sweden’s NATO membership, Mr Erdogan said it would “depend on the strong steps Sweden takes”.

Explaining the difference between the two Nordic countries from Ankara’s perspective, Mr Erdogan claimed Sweden had “embraced terrorism” and cited demonstrations by supporters of Kurdish militants on the streets of Stockholm. “Such demonstrations do not take place in Finland,” he said. “For this reason we were forced to consider the case of Finland separately from that of Sweden”.

Mr. Niinisto welcomed Turkey’s willingness to move forward with his country’s application, but also expressed solidarity with its neighbor. “I think Finland’s NATO membership is not complete without Sweden,” he said.

Referring to a NATO meeting planned for July in the Lithuanian capital, Mr. Niinisto added that he would like to see an alliance of 32 member countries come together in Vilnius, meaning Sweden as well.

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