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15 Mar, 2023 23:41

NATO hopeful says Ankara ready to ‘fulfill promise’

Finland expects Türkiye to greenlight its application later this week, but Sweden’s fate remains uncertain
NATO hopeful says Ankara ready to ‘fulfill promise’

President Sauli Niinisto of Finland said on Wednesday that he expects a positive answer on Helsinki’s membership of the US-led military bloc when he meets his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan later this week.

Niinisto is scheduled to arrive in Türkiye on Thursday and tour the regions affected by the February earthquakes that claimed almost 50,000 lives. He will meet with Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday, to hear the Turkish president’s decision in person.

Asked on Tuesday if Türkiye would greenlight Finland’s application, Erdogan responded, “God willing, if it is for the best.”

Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO last year, after the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. All 30 members of the bloc must ratify their admission. Stockholm’s application has been held up by Ankara, however, over outstanding issues involving Kurdish activists – which Türkiye considers terrorists – sheltering in Sweden, an arms embargo, and religious provocations.

Though the NATO leadership wanted to admit both Nordic countries together, last month Finland signaled it was ready to go ahead on its own. Sweden reluctantly accepted the turn of events, still hoping the issues with Türkiye would be ironed out.

Visiting Germany on Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he hoped Ankara would ratify his country’s application after the Turkish general election, which is scheduled for mid-May. 

Helsinki and Stockholm’s NATO aspirations also hit a snag in Hungary, which was supposed to ratify their applications this week. The government has postponed the parliamentary session, however, citing “a delay in negotiations with Brussels.” The EU has made a set of policy demands it says Budapest must meet before the funds earmarked for Hungary can be released.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused fellow EU members Finland and Sweden of spreading “outright lies” about the state of democracy and the rule of law in his country. The ruling Fidesz party has said it would make a decision about the NATO application once the parliamentary delegation that visited Sweden and Finland reports its findings.