Turkey is set to APPROVE Finland’s NATO membership – but will consider Sweden’s bid separately
- Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO after Putin`s invasion of Ukraine
- Turkey and Hungary are only two alliance members yet to ratify applications
Turkey is set to approve Finland`s NATO membership bid, but will consider Sweden`s own application separately, two Turkish officials said today.
Turkish parliament is highly likely to ratify Finland’s NATO membership before it closes mid-April for parliamentary and presidential elections that will take place on May 14, the officials told Reuters news agency.
The Nordic neighbours abandoned their decades-long policy of military non-alignment and applied to join the western alliance last May in the wake of Vladimir Putin`s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members still to ratify their applications, which must be accepted by all 30 existing members of the NATO alliance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dug in against Sweden as he heads into a close presidential election, but Ankara is set to ratify Finland’s membership as the country’s president prepares to travel to Turkey to meet Erdogan on Friday.
Turkey is set to approve Finland`s NATO membership bid, but will consider Sweden`s own application separately, two Turkish officials said today. Pictured: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses parliament in Ankara on Wednesday
Sweden and Finland abandoned their decades-long policy of military non-alignment and applied to join the western alliance last May in the wake of Vladimir Putin`s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Pictured: Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (right) is seen with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left) at the end of February
Finland joining NATO would see Russia`s border with the military alliance almost double in length. Putin has repeatedly claimed that his invasion of Ukraine, ordered on February 24 last year, was a reaction to the expansion of the NATO military alliance on Russia`s borders – and to Ukraine`s own ambitions of joining the group.
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Kyiv and the West says Putin`s attack on Ukraine is a crime of aggression fuelled by his imperialistic ambitions to capture former Soviet territory and eradicate a sovereign country – in breach of international law.
The expansion of NATO in recent decades, they say, is in itself a reaction to mounting fears of Russian aggression, as shown by Finland and Sweden`s bids.
Another country joining NATO, particularly one so close to Russia, will likely see Putin ramp up his rhetoric against the alliance, and enforce his justification of the war to his supporters at home – amid rising tensions in the region between Moscow and Ukraine’s western allies.
While Hungary’s approval is also still needed, the path looks clear for Finland to join NATO before Sweden, even though the two countries coordinated their applications and stressed they wanted to join together.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson acknowledged Tuesday that the likelihood of Finland joining NATO before Sweden had ‘increased’ in recent weeks, but stressed entry was just a matter of time.
Ankara suspended negotiations with Sweden after protests in January that included a Koran burning outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm, but talks resumed in Brussels on March 9.
Meanwhile, Finnish president Sauli Niinisto will travel to Turkey to meet Erdogan at the end of the week.
Niinisto, who will be joined by foreign minister Pekka Haavisto, will discuss reconstruction efforts following the devastating earthquakes in February, ‘and Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO memberships’, the president’s office said in a statement.
Turkey has repeatedly said that Sweden needs to take additional steps against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara holds t responsible for the 2016 coup attempt.
It treats both groups as terrorist organisations.
Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress especially following several disputes mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.
‘We are looking favourably at Finland’s accession. It would not be wrong to say that accession talks will be held at different times than Sweden,’ one Turkish senior official told reporters from Retuers.
Another official with knowledge of the matter said Finland’s approach to terrorist organisations was in line with Turkey’s sensitivities and that Helsinki had taken steps in that regard.
‘It is highly likely that the necessary step for Finland’s NATO membership will be completed before (parliament) closes and the election is held,’ the official said.
The result of the Nato vote (184 pro Nato votes, 7 no votes) is pictured during the plenary session where Finnish Parliament voted on Finland’s accession to NATO in Helsinki, Finland, Wednesday March 1, 2023
A Boxer armoured fighting vehicle is seen during an exercise of the German contingent of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence on March 7, 2023 in Pabrade, Lithuania (file photo)
Both officials declined to be named because the discussions are not public yet.
Parliament is due to close in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14.
The parliaments of all 30 members of NATO have to ratify any membership bids for the alliance. Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO allies that have not yet ratified the membership of Finland and Sweden.
The United States and other NATO countries are hoping that the two Nordic countries become members of the alliance at a NATO summit due to be held in July 11 in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.
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