ANKARA — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday that his country will kick off the ratification process of Finland’s NATO membership.
Speaking alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan said Finland has taken sincere and concrete steps to meet the security demands that Ankara set out in return for its support for the Nordic country’s accession to the alliance.
“We've decided to launch the ratification process of Finland's NATO accession protocol in our parliament, following the sensitivity and progress it has shown in addressing our country’s security concerns,” said Erdogan.
Niinisto, for his part, described the move as a “very important” development for his nation.
Erdogan expressed his hope that the Turkish Parliament would ratify the application before the elections.
Finland and Sweden abandoned their historical military non-alignment policies and announced their bids to join the alliance in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. Ankara requested that both countries address its security concerns in return for its support for the expansion, which requires the consensus of all 30 members. Helsinki and Stockholm pledged to address these concerns under a NATO-brokered deal in June.
Ankara argues that while Finland has fulfilled its promises, Sweden has still steps to take.
Erdogan said Ankara's talks with Stockholm will continue.
“How the process will progress will be directly dependent on the concrete steps that Sweden will take,” said Erdogan.
Turkey’s extradition request for dozens of people stands out as the thorniest issue that is stalling the Swedish bid.
Erdogan said Turkey submitted an extradition list for more than 210 people whom Ankara considers “terrorists.”
“Mr. Prime Minister is a good person but they haven’t, couldn’t give these people to us,” said Erdogan, reiterating that that his country wouldn’t give the nod to the Swedish bid unless Stockholm takes a concrete step on this issue.
The Turkish government also seeks asset freezes and activity restrictions against groups that Ankara considers terrorist organizations.
Finland, which shares a more than 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia, had previously announced that it would not join NATO without Sweden in solidarity with its western neighbor. Today’s announcement marks a position shift for Helsinki.
Expressing his hope for Stockholm’s bid, Niinisto said Finland’s accession to NATO would “not be complete without Sweden.”
“We have so much common interest having been neighbors and having the Baltic Sea area on our shore. So, I would like to see in Vilnius that we will meet the alliance of 32 members.”
The United States and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have been pressing for a joint accession in a bid to welcome the Nordic countries during the alliance’s upcoming summit in Vilnius on July 11-12.
Following Turkey’s ratification, Hungary will be the sole NATO member dragging its feet on Finland’s membership bid. Budapest pledged to ratify the accession of both countries several times in the past week but is still postponing the process.