President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey’s parliament will begin ratifying Finland's NATO bid, but not that of Sweden, removing the biggest remaining hurdle to enlarging the Western defense alliance as war continues to rage in Ukraine.
Speaking in Ankara alongside Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan said Helsinki won Turkey’s blessing after taking concrete steps to keep its promises to crack down on what it sees as terrorists and to free up defense exports.
Ankara will continue discussions with Stockholm on terrorism-related issues and Sweden’s NATO membership bid would depend directly on measures taken, he added.
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The parliaments of all 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.
“We have decided to initiate the ratification of Finland’s accession process to NATO in our parliament,” Erdogan told reporters after meeting with Niinisto, adding he hoped parliament would endorse the bid before May 14 elections.
Niinisto said he welcomed the decision and called it “very important” for Finland, which shares a long border with Russia.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the trans-Atlantic pact but faced unexpected objections from Turkey. Ankara says Stockholm harbors members of terrorist groups, a charge Sweden denies.
Apart from Hungary, whose ruling party has said it backs the two Nordic bids but has delayed steps, Turkey is the only NATO member not yet to have given Finland and Sweden its green light.