Erdogan: Turkiye to Start Ratification Process for Finland's NATO Bid
Finland and Sweden jointly applied to join the Western military alliance in May 2022, threatening to break with decades (and in Sweden's case centuries) of neutrality. The Nordic nations' NATO bid has been approved by most of the alliance's members, and until now has been held up by Turkiye and Hungary.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked the country's parliament to vote on Finland's application to join NATO.
"We have decided to start the protocol of Finland's accession to NATO in our parliament," Erdogan told reporters after talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in Ankara on Friday. "We are confident that Finland will play an active role in ensuring the security of NATO," he said.
Emphasizing Turkiye's continued support for NATO's so-called "open door policy," Erdogan praised Finland for taking the necessary "concrete steps" for Ankara to support its bid to join the alliance - a reference to measures to crack down on Finland-based Kurdish groups which Ankara characterizes as "terrorists."
Erdogan expects the NATO ratification process for Finland to be completed before the upcoming Turkish general elections in mid-May, where he is currently trailing in the polls behind the united opposition's presidential candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People's Party.
Sweden's NATO bid will be considered separately, with discussions continuing and Stockholm yet to hand over individuals accused of terrorism in Turkey, Erdogan said.
"We cannot support Sweden's entry into NATO, since they have refused to extradite 120 terrorists. We will continue to have a dialogue with them on this process, but it depends entirely on the steps taken by Stockholm," the Turkish leader said.
Niinisto thanked Erdogan for his support and said the planned ratification of Helsinki's NATO bid was "important" for the whole of Finland. He added, however, that Finland's membership in the alliance wouldn't be complete without Sweden, and that the Swedes are "nice people."
"You know that terrorism is our red line. Right now we are seeing negative steps against Turkey in the fight against terrorism...The Prime Minister of Sweden may be a nice person, but we cannot say 'yes' to Sweden's NATO membership if he won't be next to us in the battle against terrorism," Erdogan said.
Hungary Says Vote Coming Later This Month
Hungary, the other NATO member which has held up Finland and Sweden's accession to the alliance, will hold a parliamentary vote on the matter of Finland's bid on March 27, while a vote on Sweden's application will take place separately and later, Mate Kocsis, the leader of the ruling Fidesz party, announced Friday.
"On behalf of the Fidesz faction, I would like to announce that we have decided to support Finland's entry into NATO. The parliamentary vote on this question will be carried forth to March 27, and we will vote unanimously in favor. The parliamentary group will decide on Sweden later," Kocsis wrote in a social media post.
Fidesz and its Christian Democratic People's Party allies enjoy a supermajority in Hungary's parliament, holding 135 of its 199 seats.
Finland and Sweden jointly applied to join NATO in the spring of 2022, citing security threats purportedly posed by Russia's military operation in Ukraine and overwhelming popular support for the idea (but rejecting nationwide referendums).
Finland and Sweden were part of a small handful of nations which managed to avoid joining opposing military blocs during the Cold War, and the even more exclusive club of European nations which were not swallowed up by NATO through its push east since 1991. Finland's entry into the alliance will add more than 1,000 km of NATO territory on Russia's doorstep, and together with Sweden, threatens to turn the Baltic Sea into a "NATO lake."
Russian officials have warned that the expansion of the Western alliance closer to Russia wouldn't make the region more stable or secure.
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