Turkish President Supports Finland Membership Application in NATO Alliance
Turkish President Supports Finland Membership Application in NATO Alliance. PHOTO/Reuters
ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday (17/3/2023), that his government would move forward with ratifying Finland’s NATO application. This would pave the way for Finland to join the military bloc ahead of Sweden.
The breakthrough came when Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was in Ankara to meet with Erdogan. Both Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO 10 months ago, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO needs the unanimous consent of its 30 existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries that have yet to ratify the Nordic nations’ bid. The Turkish government has accused Sweden and Finland of being too soft on groups it views as terror organizations, but expressed more reservations about Sweden.
“When it comes to fulfilling its promises in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara after his meeting with Niinisto.
“Sensitivity for the security of our country and, based on the progress that has been made in the protocol for Finland’s accession to NATO, we have decided to start the ratification process in our parliament,” Erdogan added.
With Erdogan’s approval, Finland’s application can now be submitted to Turkey’s parliament, where the president’s party and its allies hold a majority. The ratification is expected to be completed before Turkey holds presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May 14.
Commenting on Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying Sweden’s accession to NATO, Erdogan said it would “contingent on the solid steps that Sweden will take.”
Explaining the differences between the Nordic countries from Ankara’s point of view, Erdogan claimed that Sweden had “accepted terrorism”, and cited demonstrations of supporters of Kurdish militants in the streets of Stockholm.
“Such demonstrations did not happen in Finland,” he said. “For that reason we have to consider (Finland) separately from Sweden,” Erdogan added.
Niinisto welcomed Turkey’s willingness to go ahead with his country’s offer, but also expressed solidarity with its neighbours. “I feel that Finland’s NATO membership is not complete without Sweden,” Niinisto said.