Feb 3, 2023
Turkey Could Approve Finland’s NATO Bid Before May Elections
Turkey is nearing a decision to approve Finland’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by next month at the latest, potentially leaving Sweden out in the cold, according to people familiar with the matter.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is close to concluding that steps taken by Helsinki to address security concerns have been enough for lawmakers to ratify the country’s NATO membership, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The announcement may come before Turkey’s parliament goes into recess in mid-March ahead of elections slated for May, they said.
“We have addressed the concerns raised by Turkey,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Thursday. “It is up to two countries, Turkey and Hungary, to ratify. We are expecting and waiting them to ratify our applications as soon as possible.”
Read More: Finland Puts Positive Spin on Turkey’s NATO Ratification Remarks
The possible move by Turkey represents a show of support by Erdogan for an expansion of the 30-nation NATO alliance, though the status of Sweden remains uncertain. Sweden has been pushing to join the alliance alongside Finland since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago, but Erdogan has blocked the proposal over the Nordic nation’s alleged support for Kurdish militants.
Relations between Turkey and Sweden worsened in recent weeks after protesters in Stockholm displayed an upside-down effigy of Erdogan and a far-right activist burned a copy of the Koran. Sweden’s government this week proposed a new law to ban activities that support terror organizations.
Finland and Sweden continue to say they are seeking to join the bloc hand-in-hand, though while they filed their applications simultaneously each country put in its own bid.
“It’s important that we today send a clear message — Finland and Sweden applied together, it is in everyone’s interest that we join together,” Marin said.
Read More: Why Turkey Is Still Blocking Sweden’s NATO Accession: QuickTake
Turkey and Hungary are the only two NATO countries that have yet to ratify the applications, which must be approved by all members.
Erdogan’s strong stance against Sweden may be a push to consolidate support of his conservative and nationalist voters in the upcoming election. He speaks frequently about the expansion of NATO membership and has kept countries guessing on when Turkey might approve the accession, if at all.
The president’s continued refusal to approve the membership of Sweden could jeopardize the finalizing by the US Congress of a sale of American-made F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
Turkey won’t budge if the US demands ratification for the Nordic countries’ NATO bids as a condition for the F-16 deal, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin repeatedly said this week.
--With assistance from Kati Pohjanpalo and Leo Laikola.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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