Turkey will ratify Finland’s NATO bid, Erdogan says
ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday that his country will begin the process of securing NATO membership in Finland.
Speaking together with the President of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan said that Finland has taken honest and concrete steps to meet the security demands set out by Ankara in return for its support for the Nordic country’s accession to the alliance.
“We decided to launch the approval process of Finland’s NATO accession protocol in our parliament, following the sensitivity and progress it has shown in addressing our country’s security concerns,” Erdogan said.
Niinisto described the move as a “very important” development for his nation.
Erdogan expressed his hope that the Turkish Parliament would ratify the request before the elections.
Finland and Sweden abandoned their historic military non-alignment policies and announced their bids to join the alliance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Ankara has asked the two countries to address its security concerns in exchange for its support for the expansion, which requires the agreement of all 30 members. Helsinki and Stockholm pledged to address these concerns under a NATO-brokered deal in June.
Ankara argues that while Finland has fulfilled its promises, Sweden still has steps to take.
Erdogan said Ankara’s talks with Stockholm will continue.
“How the process will progress will depend directly on the concrete steps taken by Sweden,” Erdogan said.
Turkey’s extradition request stands out to many as the most pressing issue stalling Sweden’s bid.
Erdogan said Turkey has submitted an extradition list for more than 210 people Ankara considers “terrorists”.
“Mr. Prime Minister is a good person but no, they could not give us these people,” Erdogan said, reiterating that his country would not approve Sweden’s offer unless Stockholm takes a concrete step on this issue .
The Turkish government also seeks asset freezes and activity restrictions against groups that Ankara considers terrorist organizations.
Finland, which shares a more than 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia, previously announced it would not join NATO without Sweden in solidarity with its western neighbor. Today’s announcement represents a change of position for Helsinki.
Expressing his hope for the Stockholm offer, Niinisto said that Finland’s accession to NATO “would not be complete without Sweden.”
“We have so much in common because we are neighbors and have the Baltic Sea area on our shores. Therefore, I would like to see in Vilnius that we will meet the alliance of 32 members.”
The United States and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg are pushing for a joint accession to welcome the Nordic countries during the Alliance summit in Vilnius on July 11-12.
After Turkey’s ratification, Hungary is the only member of NATO that will be dragging its feet on Finland’s membership bid. Budapest has promised to confirm the accession of the two countries several times in the past week but the process is still being postponed.