Erdogan gave the go-ahead for Finland to join NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday gave the green signal to Finland’s entry into NATO, presenting ratification of Finland’s application for membership to the Turkish parliament, a decision immediately welcomed by the Atlantic Alliance.

“We have decided in our parliament to start the process of Finland joining NATO,” Erdogan said after a meeting in Ankara with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

Turkey’s presidential announcement opens a little more way for the Nordic country to enter the alliance, with 28 of its 30 member states already having approved their candidature.

Hungary must also ratify the Finnish and Swedish applications for membership, which were submitted jointly last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and which require unanimous approval.

The Hungarian parliament will vote on Finnish membership on March 27, a Hungarian government spokesman announced on Friday.

Turkey in particular accuses Stockholm of inaction in the face of Kurdish “terrorists” who have taken refuge in Sweden seeking extradition, on which the government does not have the final word.

But Turkey’s head of state, which continues to block the Swedish candidacy, acknowledged “concrete measures” taken by Helsinki in recent months.

“I hope (ratification) will happen before the election,” Erdogan said during a news conference with his Finnish counterpart.

Turkey’s presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for May 14, but Turkey’s parliament is expected to suspend its work for about a month before a double vote.

– “Very important for Finland” –

“We hope that the (Turkish) parliament will have time,” the Finnish president said, describing the process as “very important for Finland”.

Finland, subject to forced neutrality by Moscow following its war with the Soviet Union during World War II, shares the longest European border (1,340 km) with Russia behind Ukraine.

Mr Niinisto however decided that “Finland’s candidature is not complete without Sweden”.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who “welcomed” Erdogan’s announcement, said “the most important thing is that Finland and Sweden quickly become full members of NATO, and not that they follow right away”.

The situation is more delicate for Sweden, which still faces objections from Ankara.

“No positive action has been taken by Sweden regarding the list of terrorists,” Erdogan said on Friday, referring to more than 120 extradition requests made by Ankara.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström expressed regret shortly afterwards that his country was still waiting for the green light from Turkey, though adding that Sweden was “ready” to get Finland before that.

The burning of a Koran by an extremist in the Swedish capital in January led to the suspension of talks between Ankara, Helsinki and Stockholm.

The Turkish President then indicated that Turkey was prepared to ratify Finland’s membership separately, although the two countries originally wanted to proceed “hand in hand”.

On Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Christerson admitted that the prospect of his neighbor joining NATO had recently “increased” before Sweden.

Mr. Christerson, however, is hopeful of completing his country’s admission to the alliance before the next NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.

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