< /p> Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö during talks in Ankara, March 17, 2023.
Ankara/Brussels/Stockholm – Turkey will start ratifying Finland's application to join the North Atlantic Alliance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this after today's meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. He added that he hoped that Turkish parliamentarians would approve Finland's entry into NATO before the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey in May. Sweden, which is also seeking to join the alliance, will have to wait for the start of ratification in the Turkish parliament. NATO welcomed Turkey's decision, Stockholm expressed disappointment.
“We have decided to start the process of approving Finland's entry into NATO in our parliament,” Erdogan announced. According to him, Helsinki has taken concrete steps to fulfill Turkey's demands, for example, in the issue of combating groups that Ankara considers terrorist.
The Finnish president described today's Turkish announcement as very good and important news for his country. However, he added that Finland's NATO membership would not be complete until Sweden also joined the alliance.
Finland and Sweden submitted a joint application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last year in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which changed long-standing positions there governments and residents on the issue of NATO membership.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Turkey's decision to start ratifying Finland's request. “The most important thing is for Finland and Sweden to become full members of NATO quickly, and not to join at exactly the same moment,” Stoltenberg said. Finland and Sweden originally insisted on joining NATO together.
But Stockholm will have to wait for the start of ratification of its request in the Turkish parliament. Erdogan said negotiations with Sweden will continue regarding the fight against terrorist groups. Ankara considers, for example, the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) or the Kurdish YPG militia and their sympathizers to be those. Erdogan criticized Stockholm for not extraditing to Ankara people whom Turkish authorities consider to be terrorists or their supporters. The PKK is also considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, the YPG militia significantly helped the West in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist organization in Syria.
Stockholm expressed disappointment at Turkey's decision not to start ratifying its request. “It is a development that we did not wish for, but for which we were prepared,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström. “It is a question of when Sweden will become a member, not if it will be,” added the head of diplomacy. To Erdogan's rebuke about extraditions, he reiterated the Swedish government's long-standing argument that each individual request is decided by an independent court.
The Turkish decision was welcomed by Washington, which called on Ankara to quickly ratify the Swedish request as well. “Both Sweden and Finland are strong and capable partners who share NATO's values, strengthen the alliance and contribute to the security of Europe,” White House National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said in a statement.
In the current Turkish parliament, Erdogan and his allies the majority. Presidential and parliamentary elections will take place in Turkey on May 14. But the parliament will hold its last session in mid-April. In addition, after the elections, the situation in the parliament will probably be more complicated. “While there is now a president in power who commands a majority in the parliament, the next president, whoever he is, will probably not have a parliamentary majority,” Özgür Ünlühisarcikli, an expert on Turkish politics, told AP.
Entry of the Nordic countries to the North Atlantic Alliance must be approved by the parliaments of all member countries. In addition to Turkey, Hungary has still not done so either, whose parliament should, according to today's statement from the government party Fidesz, discuss the ratification of Finland's entry into NATO on March 27. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's party will decide on Sweden's accession later.