Turkey’s president says he will support Finland’s NATO bid

Turkey’s president says he will support Finland’s NATO bid

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday his government would 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 when Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was in Ankara to meet Erdogan. Both Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members 10 months ago in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of non-alignment.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of its 30 existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries yet to ratify the Nordic nations’ bid. The Turkish government accused both Sweden and Finland of being too soft on groups it considers terrorist organizations, but expressed more reservations about Sweden.

“In terms of fulfilling its promises in the Trilateral Memorandum of Understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara after his meeting with Niinisto.

FILE - The national flags of North Atlantic Treaty Organization members are seen at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 12, 2022. FILE – The national flags of North Atlantic Treaty Organization members are seen at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 12, 2022.

“This sensitivity to our country’s security and, based on the progress that has been made in the protocol of Finland’s accession to NATO, we have decided to start the ratification process in our parliament,” the president added.

With 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.

Commenting on Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying Sweden’s accession to NATO, Erdogan said it “depends on the solid steps Sweden will take.”

To explain the difference between the Nordic countries from Ankara’s point of view, 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] separated from Sweden.’

Niinisto welcomed Turkey’s willingness to go ahead with 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 the Lithuanian capital, Niinisto added: “I would like to see in Vilnius that we will meet the 32-member alliance.”

Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed a memorandum of understanding in June last year to resolve differences of opinion on the membership of the Nordic states.

The document included clauses dealing with Ankara’s claims that Stockholm and Helsinki did not take seriously enough its concerns with those it sees as terrorists, particularly supporters of Kurdish militants who have waged a 39-year insurgency in Turkey and people Ankara associates with an attempted coup 2016.

A series of separate demonstrations in Stockholm, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Koran outside the Turkish embassy, ​​also angered Turkish officials.

ENVIRONMENT - Protesters demonstrate in front of the Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul, Turkey, after an anti-Islam activist burned a copy of the Koran on January 21, 2023. ENVIRONMENT – Protesters demonstrate in front of the Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul, Turkey, after an anti-Islam activist burned a copy of the Koran on January 21, 2023.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and lawmakers have vowed to ratify the two countries’ applications for NATO membership. But the country’s parliament has repeatedly postponed a ratification vote.

The parliamentary head of Orban’s Fidesz party said on Friday that a vote on Finland’s accession would be held on March 27. Mate Kocsis said in a Facebook post that lawmakers for Fidesz, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament, would “unanimously vote for” .’

Niinisto arrived in Turkey on Thursday and toured areas affected by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 52,000 people in Turkey and Syria last month.

“I have known Erdogan for a long time. I am sure he has important messages,” Niinisto said Thursday while visiting Kahramanmaras, one of the provinces worst hit by the February 6 magnitude 7.6 earthquake that killed more than 52,000 people in Turkey and Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, welcomes Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 17, 2023. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, welcomes Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 17, 2023.

Ahead of Friday’s announcement, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Sweden hoped for “a quick ratification process” after Turkey’s election.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the decision would strengthen the security of NATO, Finland and Sweden. “The most important thing is that both Finland and Sweden quickly become full members of NATO, not if they join exactly at the same time,” he said.

Turkey’s parliament will go into recess ahead of elections in three weeks, but an “accelerated process” to approve Finland’s NATO membership was expected, said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, head of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara.

He predicted a tougher road ahead for Sweden after the election, regardless of whether Erdogan is returned to office after 20 years in power or the opposition takes the lead.

“While there is now a president who commands a majority in parliament, the next president, whoever is elected, is unlikely to have a majority in parliament,” Unluhisarcikli said.

Three political alliances made up of more than a dozen parties are participating in the election, including a left-wing alliance of politicians who tend to be ideologically opposed to NATO.

“Now it is enough to persuade President Erdogan, but several parties will need to be persuaded after the election,” Unluhisarcikli said.

    Source: sn.dk

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