Monday, March 20, 2023

Turkey plans to ratify Finland’s NATO bid ahead of May elections – Usky News

Ankara: Turkey’s Parliament Will confirm “highly likely” Finland’s NATO accession bid before mid-April, two Turkish officials told Reuters a day earlier on Wednesday Finnish President Sauli Niinisto visits the country.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the trans-Atlantic defense pact after Russia invaded Ukraine, but faced unexpected objections from Turkey. Ankara says Stockholm harbors members of terrorist groups, which Sweden denies.
The parliaments of all 30 NATO members have to ratify any membership bid for the alliance. Apart from Hungary, Turkey is the only member that has not given the green signal to Finland and Sweden.
A senior Turkish official told Reuters that Finland’s bid would be approved independently of Sweden’s.
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.
“There is a high probability that the necessary steps for Finland’s NATO membership will be completed before (parliament) is closed and elections are held,” the official said.
Both officials declined to be named because the discussions have not yet been made public.
Niinisto, who will visit Turkey on March 16-17, said he believed Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would announce his decision regarding Finland’s NATO bid when the two meet.
“We knew that when Turkish President Erdogan made a decision regarding the ratification of Finland’s NATO membership, he would like to meet president to president and fulfill his promise,” Niinisto said in an email to Reuters.
“The Turks expected that I would be there personally to make the decision,” he said.
Turkey has repeatedly said Sweden needs to take additional steps against supporters and members of the network of Kurdish militants Ankara holds responsible for the 2016 coup attempt. Turkey considers both groups to be terrorist organizations.
There has been little progress in talks between Sweden and Turkey, especially in Stockholm following street protests mainly by pro-Kurdish groups.
Erdogan first hinted in January that Ankara might give the green light to Helsinki before Stockholm, amid rising tensions with Sweden.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Christerson said on Tuesday that the prospect of Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden had increased, following talks between the three parties in Brussels this week.
Parliament is due to close in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections on 14 May.
Erdogan indicated that he would soon send the ratification of Finland’s NATO membership to the parliament, adding that he would “keep his promise”.
“Mr. President (Ninisto) will come to Turkey on Friday and we will meet. After that, we will fulfill our promise,” Erdogan told reporters on Wednesday.
“A positive message will be conveyed to the President of Finland during his visit,” said the second official.
The United States and other NATO countries are hoping that the two Nordic countries will become members of the alliance at a NATO summit scheduled for July 11 in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.


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