Prez Erdogan hints Turkey may ratify Finland's NATO membership

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested Wednesday that his country could soon ratify Finland's application to join NATO

AP Press Trust of India Ankara
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks at Esenboga Airport in Ankara, Turkey, October 7, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested Wednesday that his country could soon ratify Finland's application to join NATO, allowing for the possibility of the country joining the military alliance separately from Sweden.

Alarmed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Finland and Sweden abandoned decades of nonalignment and applied to join the alliance. All 30 NATO members have approved their applications, and 28 have ratified their accession. Only Turkey and Hungary have failed to do so.

Turkey's government accuses Sweden of being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organizations and existential threats, including Kurdish groups. Ankara has said, however, that it has fewer problems with Finland's membership.

Asked by reporters whether Turkey could ratify Finland's membership following a visit by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto later in the week, Erdogan responded: God willing, if it is for the best.

Whatever the process is, the process will function. We will do our part. We will keep our promise. We will meet with the president on Friday and fulfill the promise we made, he said.

Speaking during a visit to Berlin on Wednesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson noted there have been increasing indications over recent weeks that Turkey is prepared to ratify Finland's membership before Sweden's.

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He said that we are prepared for that situation as well.

We don't hide at all that we preferred to be ratified together, to make the whole journey hand in hand, Kristersson said. But I've always also expressed the fact that every country in NATO makes their own ratification decisions and we have full respect for that.

The Swedish leader said that there has been very good progress and we do believe that we are ready for ratification, but we respect that only Turkey can make Turkey's decisions.

Of course, we hope for a rapid ratification process after the Turkish election, he said. Erdogan is seeking a third consecutive term in office in May 14 elections.

Turkish officials have been angered by a series of separate demonstrations in Sweden, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy.

Niinisto is scheduled to arrive in Turkey along with Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Thursday, when the two officials will tour areas affected by a devastating earthquake that hit parts of Turkey and Syria last month.

Niinisto and Erdogan are scheduled to meet in Istanbul on Friday.

First Published: Mar 15 2023 | 8:02 PM IST