(Photo Credit: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Reuters)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on 17 March that parliament would soon start ratifying Finland’s accession to NATO.
“We have decided to start the protocol of Finland’s accession to NATO in our parliament,” Erdogan told reporters following a meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in Ankara. “When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” he added.
Niinisto said he welcomed Erdogan’s decision and called it “very important” for Finland, adding that it was important that neighbor Sweden also joined the alliance.
Finland and Sweden last year ended decades of neutrality and officially applied to join the US-led militaristic alliance in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
However, their entry has been delayed by Erdogan, who demanded that the two applicants lift arms embargoes on Turkiye, extradite alleged Kurdish and Gulenist militants, and investigate the activity of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) within their borders.
The Nordic states agreed to these demands in a trilateral memorandum signed in Madrid last June. However, Ankara says Stockholm still needs to follow through with its promises.
The Swedish government’s refusal to stop recent Quran-burning protests further inflamed tensions.
Following Erdogan’s announcement on Friday, the US issued a statement welcoming the move and urging Ankara to ratify Sweden’s accession quickly.
“Sweden and Finland are both strong, capable partners that share NATO’s values and will strengthen the Alliance and contribute to European security. The United States believes that both countries should become members of NATO as soon as possible,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Similarly, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Sweden still hoped to be accepted into NATO by the time of the alliance’s next meeting in July.
“Our partners support us, both in making sure that we can become members of NATO as soon as possible, and in ensuring our security until such time as we become a full member,” he said.
“It is a question of when Sweden becomes a member, not if.”