Turkey ratifies Finland’s NATO membership
ANKARA – The Turkish parliament ratified Finland’s accession to NATO on Thursday, while Ankara and Budapest continue to block Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.
The measure was passed unanimously with 276 votes in the general assembly of the parliament.
Finland and Sweden were formally invited to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in June after breaking their historic policy of military non-alignment in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. At first, Turkey gave them its intention to be an official invitation, but it put down a series of national security demands before they confirmed their accession. NATO’s decision-making process requires agreement among all 30 member states.
The People’s Democratic Party for Kurdistan (HDP), the second largest opposition bloc in parliament, abstained from the vote, but criticized the Turkish government’s position during the three-way negotiations between Turkey, Finland and the Sweden regarding Ankara’s requests for a crackdown on Kurdish activists. Among Turkey’s demands from the Nordic countries are the restriction of Kurdish activists in both countries and the extradition of individuals considered by Ankara to be terrorists.
Speaking at parliament on Thursday, HDP lawmaker Hisyar Ozsoy accused the government of “blackmailing” NATO talks to extradite many activists, authors and intellectuals. He said his party had never supported a bill that improved militarization and would never support it.
Ankara’s extradition demands for most of those people are based on their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdish militants who have been fighting against the Turkish government for self-rule since 1984. The issue remains the major issue in the talks between Stockholm and Ankara. .
Former Ambassador Ahmet Kamil Erozan, a lawmaker with the country’s opposition Good Party, meanwhile, said the government delayed Finland’s offer for political purposes.
“The process is being managed clumsily,” Erozan said. “The views of our president [on the issue] always aimed at domestic political consumption,” he told parliament.
It was much easier to implement Turkey’s requests from Finland compared to those it requested from Sweden. After minor amendments to its terrorism laws related to and lifting of a de facto embargo on defense sales to Turkey, Helsinki met most of Ankara’s demands, paving the way for ratification. Erdogan announced the formal start of the ratification process earlier this month during Finnish President Sauli Niinisto’s state visit to the country.
Turkey was the only NATO member blocking the Nordic country’s accession following Hungary’s ratification earlier this week.
Sweden has also taken a number of steps to address Turkey’s concerns including amending its terrorism laws. Stockholm also spearheaded a series of measures to support Ankara’s post-disaster efforts after the twin earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey. The Nordic country, however, was unable to change Ankara’s position.
Ankara’s most controversial request from Stockholm is to extradite more than 100 people for their alleged links to terrorism. There are major differences between the two countries’ laws regarding terrorism.
Speaking alongside Niinisto, Erdogan said his country’s talks with Sweden would continue. “How the process will progress will depend directly on the concrete steps taken by Sweden,” he said.
Niinisto, whose country is pushing for joint accession, expressed his solidarity with the Swedish offer, saying that Finland’s accession to NATO “would not be complete without Sweden.”
The Turkish government’s decoupling of the two proposals also brought implicit protests within the Turkish parliament.
Former Ambassador Unal Cevikoz, a lawmaker with the country’s main opposition, said that Sweden is one of the countries in the European Union that has made the hardest effort for Turkey’s EU membership in the last 10 years.
“We made a distinction between Sweden and Finland, but I hope that by making this distinction, we did not alienate the Swedish people from ourselves,” he said.
Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer (800 mile) border with Russia, which invaded the country twice in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Along with Turkey, Hungary has yet to ratify Sweden’s offer, despite repeated promises to do so. NATO and Washington are seeking joint accession ahead of the Alliance leaders’ summit in Vilnius on July 11-12.
After Turkey’s ratification, the US State Department and the Finnish authorities will finalize Finland’s NATO membership under the Washington Treaty.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.