Roundup: Turkey’s Erdogan says he will support Finland’s NATO bid

Roundup: Turkey's Erdogan says he will support Finland's NATO bid

ANKARA, March 17 (Xinhua) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Friday to ask parliament to vote on Finland’s NATO membership, but delayed Sweden’s proposal, saying Finland has taken concrete steps to address Turkey’s security concerns.

“We have observed concrete and sincere steps from Finland recently. As a result of Finland’s sensitivity to our legitimate security concerns, we have decided to start the approval process” in parliament, Erdogan said at a press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

With Erdogan’s support, Finland’s NATO bid will be forwarded to the Turkish parliament, where the Turkish president’s party and allies hold the majority. Parliament will go into recess before mid-April, ahead of the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on May 14.

The Turkish president said he hopes Finland’s NATO bid can be finalized before the election.

He emphasized that he believes NATO will further strengthen and play a decisive role in global security with Finland’s accession.

Erdogan, meanwhile, said Turkey still expected Sweden to hand over 120 members of what Turkey calls terrorist groups, before his country approaches the Swedish membership application “positively”.

Finnish President Niinisto, for his part, welcomed Turkey’s decision as “a significant move for the entire people of Finland”, but hinted that Finland would only join the military bloc together with Sweden.

“Because we have common security interests. We have borders in the Baltic Sea. I hope we will be a 32-member alliance at the summit in Vilnius,” he said, referring to the planned NATO summit in July.

Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO in May 2022 in the wake of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Their accession to NATO requires the approval of all member states of the military alliance. Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO member states withholding their approvals.

Türkiye accused the two Nordic countries of supporting anti-Turkish Kurdish organizations and political dissidents. Türkiye also asked the two countries to extradite suspects linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement.

In June 2022, Türkiye lifted its objections after reaching a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sweden and Finland ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid.

In the memorandum of understanding, Finland and Sweden pledged to support Turkey’s fight against terrorism, and agreed to deal with Turkey’s “pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects promptly and thoroughly”.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US and the EU, has been insurgent against the Turkish government for more than three decades.

The Gulen movement is led by and named after the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is regarded by his followers as a spiritual leader. The Turkish government accuses the movement of being behind the failed coup in 2016 that killed at least 250 people.

Lifting defense industry restrictions on Turkey was another condition of the deal. Sweden and Finland have restricted arms exports to Türkiye after the country launched a cross-border operation in northern Syria in 2019. On September 30 last year, Sweden’s Inspectorate for Strategic Products, which controls arms exports, said it had approved military exports to Türkiye.

Several protests in the Swedish capital Stockholm in January, including a demonstration that a far-right politician burned the Koran, also angered Ankara.






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