Turkey plans to ratify Finland's NATO bid ahead of May polls -sources


  • World
  • Wednesday, 15 Mar 2023

FILE PHOTO: A Turkish flag flies next to NATO logo at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's parliament will "highly likely" ratify Finland's NATO accession bid before it closes in mid-April, two Turkish officials told Reuters on Wednesday, a day before Finnish President Sauli Niinisto visits the country.

Finland's bid will be approved independently from that of Sweden, which had applied for membership in the Western military alliance at the same time as its Nordic neighbour after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, one senior official said.

Turkey has repeatedly said that Sweden needs to take additional steps against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara holds responsible for the 2016 coup attempt. Turkey treats both groups as terrorist organisations.

Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress especially following several disputes mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Tuesday that the likelihood of Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden had increased, after talks between the three sides in Brussels this week.

"We are looking favourably at Finland's accession. It would not be wrong to say that accession talks will be held at different times than Sweden," one Turkish senior official said.

Another official with knowledge of the matter said Finland's approach to terrorist organisations was in line with Turkey's sensitivities and that Helsinki had taken steps in that regard.

"It is highly likely that the necessary step for Finland's NATO membership will be completed before (parliament) closes and the election is held," the official said.

Both officials declined to be named because the discussions are not public yet.

Parliament is due to close in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14.

Finland's Niinisto is due to visit Istanbul on March 16-17 to meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

"Positive messages will be given to Finland's president during his visit," the second official said.

The parliaments of all 30 members of NATO have to ratify any membership bids for the alliance. Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO allies that have not yet ratified the membership of Finland and Sweden.

The United States and other NATO countries are hoping that the two Nordic countries become members of the alliance at a NATO summit due to be held in July 11 in Lithuania's capital Vilnius.

(Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Additional reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Daren Butler and Tomasz Janowski)

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