Turkey confirms that it has agreed to Finland’s bid for its accession to the NATO alliance. Sweden, however, was left behind and is yet to get support.
After months of negotiations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Finland’s membership in NATO this Friday, but he emphasised that talks with Sweden will go on. The announcement ends a roughly 10-month wait for Finland to join the alliance since Erdogan abstained from it.
Erdogan told his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, in Ankara, “We have decided to commence the approval of Finland’s membership procedure to NATO in our parliament,”. He asserted that NATO would become more robust with Finland’s membership, and it would play an active role in ensuring global security and stability.
The Turkish parliament is expected to support Finland’s application before the country’s elections on May 14.
A Difficult Path to NATO
Finland and Sweden submitted membership bids to the NATO alliance in May. However, once Russia invaded Ukraine, both countries abandoned their neutrality and military non-alignment policy.
Turkey and Hungary were the only nations that did not confirm the Nordic countries’ bids, and NATO expansion requires the unanimous consent of all 30 of its current members. The Turkish government raised more concerns about Sweden, but earlier, both were accused of being overly lenient towards organisations it considers to be terrorist organisations.
Erdogan has pledged not to approve Stockholm’s proposal unless more than 120 violent Kurdish organisation members are returned. Turkey sees it as a terrorist organisation and has accused Sweden of harbouring its members. Thus, he added that Turkey would continue discussing the terms with Sweden, considering NATO’s regulations and its goal of fighting against terrorism.
The Hungarian Support
Hungary, a member of NATO that has similarly delayed approving Finland’s application to join the defence alliance, has finally joined in support of Finland’s accession.
Máté Kocsis, the leader of the Fidesz party’s parliamentary group, wrote on Facebook on Friday afternoon that his party supports Finland and that it will ratify a vote in the Hungarian parliament on March 27.
However, he stressed that Sweden must wait since Hungary will decide on their bid later.
Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, reiterated the recent development. At a news conference the same day in Brussels, he stated, “I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.” He mentioned that both are its closest allies, and joining NATO will strengthen their security.
After Turkey’s announcement, he declared on Friday that Finland and Sweden should also rapidly become members of NATO, regardless of whether they should do so simultaneously.
Inside NATO, there is optimism that Turkey’s parliament will approve Sweden’s application after the country’s elections in May and before NATO leaders meet in Lithuania for a crucial meeting in July.
The intricacy of choice hinges on how long Turkey keeps Sweden in the Nato waiting room. Moreover, the decision affects NATO’s defence strategy. Nato Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg declared he could not see a scenario in which Nato would not defend Sweden against an assault by Russia.
Finnish president Niinistö praised Erdogan on Friday for advancing Finland’s membership application. However, he also mentioned that Sweden is their neighbour and has good connections with Turkey and Sweden as Baltic Sea Republics. According to him, Finland’s NATO membership would be incomplete without Sweden.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, “The United States is pleased with Turkey’s decision to support Finland’s membership bid.” He added that the U.S. will urge Turkey to approve Sweden’s bid as soon as possible.”