President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will move forward with ratifying Finland’s Nato application, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc ahead of Sweden.
The breakthrough came as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was in Ankara to meet with Mr Erdogan and 10 months after both Finland and Sweden applied to become Nato members in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of nonalignment.
“When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Mr Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara following his meeting with Mr Niinisto.
With Mr Erdogan’s agreement, Finland’s application can now go to the Turkish parliament, where the president’s party and its allies hold a majority.
Ratification is expected before Turkey holds its presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 14.
Mr Erdogan suggested on Wednesday that his country might take up Finland’s accession following Mr Niinisto’s trip.
Nato requires the unanimous approval of its 30 existing members to expand and Turkey and Hungary have failed so far to ratify the accession of the Nordic neighbours.
Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organisations, including Kurdish groups, and has said it has fewer problems with Finland.
“This sensitivity for our country’s security and, based on the progress that has been made in the protocol for Finland’s accession to Nato, we have decided to initiate the ratification process in our parliament,“ Mr Erdogan said on Friday.
Commenting on Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying Sweden’s accession to Nato, Mr Erdogan said it would “depend on the solid steps Sweden will take”.
Explaining the difference between the Nordic countries from Ankara’s viewpoint, Mr Erdogan claimed that 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 that reason we had to consider (Finland) separately from Sweden.”
Mr Niinisto welcomed Turkey’s willingness to move on his country’s bid but also expressed solidarity with its neighbour. “I have a feeling that Finnish Nato membership is not complete without Sweden,” he said.
Referring to a Nato summit scheduled for July in Lithuania’s capital, Mr Niinisto added: “I would like to see in Vilnius that we will meet the alliance of 32 members.”
Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed an agreement last June to resolve differences over the Nordic states’ membership.
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