Turkey would approve Finland’s NATO candidacy before the May elections

Turkey would approve Finland's NATO candidacy
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

The Turkish parliament will “in all probability” ratify Finland’s NATO bid before the close of elections in mid-April, two Turkish officials told Reuters on Wednesday, a day before Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. visit the country.

Finland’s bid will be approved independently of Sweden, which had applied to join the Western military alliance at the same time as its Nordic neighbor after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, a senior official said.

Why Turkey will not ratify the Swedish candidacy for NATO

Turkey has repeatedly said Sweden needs to take additional action against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara considers responsible for the 2016 coup attempt. Turkey treats both groups as terrorist organizations.

Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress, especially after several disputes, mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm .

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Tuesday that the likelihood of Finland joining NATO before Sweden had increased, following talks between the three parties in Brussels this week.

“We welcome the accession of Finland. It would not be wrong to say that the accession talks will take place at a different time than in Sweden,” a senior Turkish official stated.

Another official with knowledge of the matter said that Finland’s approach to terrorist organizations was in line with Turkey’s sensitivities and that Helsinki had taken steps in that regard.

“ It is very likely that the necessary step for Finland’s NATO membership will be completed before (parliament) closes and elections are held,” the official said.

Both officials declined to give their names because the talks are not yet public.

Parliament will close in mid-April, ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14.

Niinisto will visit Istanbul on March 16 and 17 to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Positive messages will be conveyed to the President of Finland during his visit,” the second official stated.

The parliaments of the 30 NATO members have to ratify any candidacy to join the alliance. Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO allies that have not yet ratified the membership of Finland and Sweden.

The United States and other NATO countries hope that the two Nordic countries will become members of the alliance at a NATO summit to be held on July 11 in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.