Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that Ankara could soon ratify Finland’s application to join NATO and allow the country to join the military alliance separately from Sweden.
Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Finland and Sweden abandoned decades of nonalignment and applied to join the alliance. All 30 NATO members have approved their applications, and 28 have ratified their accession. Only Turkey and Hungary have yet to do so.
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Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too soft on groups that it considers to be “terror” organisations and existential threats, including Kurdish groups.
Turkish officials have also been angered by a series of demonstrations in Sweden, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Quran outside the Turkish embassy.
Ankara has said, however, that it has fewer problems with Finland’s membership.
Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Turkey could ratify Finland’s membership after a visit by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto this week, Erdogan responded: “God willing, if it is for the best.”
“Whatever the process is, the process will function,” Erdogan said. “We will do our part. We will keep our promise. We will meet with the president on Friday and fulfil the promise we made.”
Niinisto is scheduled to arrive in Turkey along with Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Thursday when the two officials will tour areas affected by devastating earthquakes that hit parts of Turkey and Syria last month.
Niinisto and Erdogan are scheduled to meet in Istanbul on Friday.
The Finnish president said he expects Erdogan to confirm Turkey’s backing, according to the Reuters news agency.
“We knew that when Turkish President Erdogan on his part has decided to ratify Finland’s NATO membership, he wants to meet and fulfil his promise president to president,” Niinisto said in an email to Reuters
Meanwhile, the Turkish president’s positive tone was also echoed by two Turkish officials who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
“It is highly likely that the necessary step for Finland’s NATO membership will be completed before [parliament] closes and the election is held,” one of the officials said.
The Turkish parliamentary session is due to end in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled on May 14.
“Positive messages will be given to Finland’s president during his visit,” the second official said.
The United States and other NATO countries are hoping the two Nordic nations will become members of the alliance at a NATO summit due to be held in July 11 in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.