Erdogan gives green light to NATO applicant
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his country’s parliament will ratify Finland’s application to join the NATO bloc. Before Finland and Sweden could join the alliance, Türkiye demanded that the Nordic nations crack down on alleged Kurdish terrorists.
"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,” the Turkish leader added.
Finland and Sweden renounced their neutrality and applied to join the US-led bloc last May, in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Accession to NATO requires the unanimous consent of all existing members, however, and Erdogan demanded that the two applicants lift arms embargoes on Türkiye, extradite alleged Kurdish and Gulenist terrorists, and investigate the activity of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) within their borders.
Finland and Sweden agreed to these demands in a trilateral memorandum signed last June. However, Ankara has accused Stockholm of holding out on its promises. Swedish authorities deny the accusations, but Erdogan remains unconvinced, and the Swedish authorities’ refusal to stop a recent Koran-burning protest further inflamed tensions.
Sweden’s chances of getting into NATO, he said on Friday, “will be directly tied to the concrete steps that Sweden will take” in the “fight against terrorism.”
Although Sweden and Finland initially said they would join NATO “hand in hand,” both nations have since conceded that they will likely join separately. “It is not excluded that Sweden and Finland will ratify in different steps,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told reporters earlier this week.
Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Niinisto said that his own country’s membership bid would not be “complete without Sweden,” adding that the two states “have so much common interest, being neighbors in the Baltic Sea area.”
Aside from Türkiye, all current NATO members with the exception of Hungary have ratified Sweden’s and Finland’s applications. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that he is in favor of both states joining the alliance, but has also accused politicians in Stockholm and Helsinki of “spreading blatant lies” about his conservative government.