Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara would approve Finland’s NATO application before the country’s May election. Erdoğan made the announcement after meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in Ankara.
Finland submitted a joint application with Sweden to join the North Atlantic alliance last May. While most members of the alliance wanted to expedite membership for the Nordic countries, Turkey resisted due to Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish groups that Ankara views as terrorists.
In June, Turkey signed a trilateral pact with the two Nordic countries that would see Sweden and Finland join NATO. However, Ankara has repeatedly said that it could not admit the two countries into the alliance because Sweden was not living up to their end of the agreement.
Recently, Stockholm, Helsinki and Ankara suggested that Turkey could approve Finland’s NATO bid without Sweden. Finnish President Niinisto said that Swedish membership is still critical to Helsinki. “Finnish NATO membership is not complete without Sweden,” Bloomberg reported.
On Friday, Erdoğan said, “we decided to start the ratification process in our Parliament for Finland’s membership.” As Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party controls Turkey’s legislature, the approval is expected to pass.
If Helsinki is accepted into NATO, it would double the border between the alliance and Russia. Moscow has indicated that it does not see the Nordic states joining NATO as an issue unless the alliance deploys more military infrastructure to the territories.
To become a NATO member, all existing member states must give approval. 28 of the 30 member states have endorsed the Nordic states joining the North Atlantic alliance. In addition to Turkey, Hungary has not given its approval.