Turkey’s president says his government will begin ratifying Finland’s bid to become a NATO member, paving the way for the country to join the security alliance after months of delays.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement speaking alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, saying Finland had taken “concrete steps” to address concerns over groups Turkey sees as terrorist organizations.
Finland announced its intention to join NATO in May 2022, along with Sweden, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the two countries to abandon their long-held non-aligned status.
The move was a setback for Moscow, with the war in Ukraine triggering the kind of NATO enlargement that Russia invaded Ukraine to prevent.
Finland and Sweden’s applications were welcomed by almost all of NATO’s leaders, but under NATO rules just one member state can veto a new applicant’s membership.
Turkey’s Erdogan threw in a spoke in the wheel when he said he was not looking at both countries joining NATO “positively,” accusing them of housing Kurdish “terrorist organizations.”
“We have decided to start the parliamentary ratification process of Finland’s NATO Accession Protocol,” Erdogan said at the news conference in Ankara.
Erdogan said he believes NATO “will become even stronger through Finland’s membership.”
“It is very good to hear this news,” Niinistö added.
Erdogan’s blessing removes the major obstacle to Finland’s membership of Nato.
In a separate development, Hungary’s ruling party said it would also approve Finland’s accession. A parliamentary vote had been stalled, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accusing Finland and Sweden of spreading “outright lies” about his country’s rule of law record.
In late February, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that although Turkey had expressed some concerns about both Sweden and Finland’s applications, it was predominantly concerned by that of Sweden.
On Friday, Niinistö pushed for Turkey to reappraise Sweden’s bid.
“I have a feeling that Finnish NATO membership is not complete without Sweden,” he said.
But Erdogan said Turkey would not change its approach to Sweden’s NATO bid unless “positive steps” were taken.
Turkey accuses Sweden of harboring members of terror groups, something Sweden denies.