Turkey plans to ratify Finland’s NATO bid ahead of May polls – sources

  • The Finnish president will visit Turkey on Thursday
  • Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO after the invasion of Ukraine
  • Turkey is likely to give Finland the green light before Sweden

ANKARA, March 15 (Reuters) – The Turkish parliament will “most likely” ratify Finland’s bid to join NATO before mid-April, two Turkish officials told Reuters on Wednesday, a day before Finnish President Sauli Niinisto visits the country.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the transatlantic defense pact last year after Russia invaded Ukraine, but were met with unexpected objections from Turkey. Ankara says Stockholm hosts members of terrorist groups, which Sweden denies.

The parliaments of all 30 members of NATO must ratify any membership bid for the alliance. Besides Hungary, Turkey is the only member that has not yet given Finland and Sweden the green light.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters that Finland’s bid would be approved independently of Sweden’s.

Another knowledgeable official said that Finland’s approach to terrorist organizations was in line with Turkey’s sensibilities and that Helsinki had taken steps in that regard.

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“It is very likely that the necessary step for Finland’s NATO membership will be completed before (parliament) closes and elections are held,” the official said.

Both officials declined to be named because the talks are not yet public.

Niinisto, who will visit Turkey on March 16 and 17, said he believes Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will announce his decision on Finland’s NATO bid when the two meet.

“We knew that when Turkish President Erdogan, for his part, has made the decision on Finland’s ratification of NATO membership, he wants to meet president to president and keep his promise,” Niinisto said in an email to Reuters.

“The Turks had hoped that I would be personally present to receive the decision,” he added.

When the United States was asked for a response to Turkey’s plans to tentatively approve only Finland’s NATO bid, the United States reiterated its position that both Nordic countries were ready to join the alliance.

“The time is now ripe to finalize their accession process and welcome them as full members of NATO… We are confident that NATO will soon formally welcome both Finland and Sweden as members,” said a spokesman for the State Department in an email commentary.

Turkey has repeatedly said that Sweden should take additional measures against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network that Ankara holds responsible for a 2016 coup attempt. Turkey treats both groups as terrorist organizations.

Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress, especially after several disputes, mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.

Amid rising tensions with Sweden, Erdogan first signaled in January that Ankara could give the green light to Helsinki before Stockholm.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Tuesday that the chances of Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden have increased following talks between the three parties in Brussels this week.


Parliament will close in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14.

Erdogan indicated that he would soon send the ratification of Finland’s NATO membership to parliament and said he would “keep his promise”.

“Mr. President (Niinisto) will come to Turkey on Friday and we will meet. After that, we will fulfill our promise,” Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday, when asked if he would send the ratification of Finland’s NATO bid to the United States next week. Turkish parliament would send. week.

“Positive messages will be given to the President of Finland during his visit,” the second official said.

The United States and other NATO countries hope that the two Nordic countries will join the alliance at a NATO summit to be held in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on July 11.

Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Nevzat Devranoglu; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Huseyin Hayatsever in Ankara and Essi Lehto in Helsinki; Written by Ali Kucukgocmen; Adaptation by Daren Butler, Raissa Kasolowsky and Mark Potter

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