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President Erdogan says Turkey will start ratifying Finland’s NATO application

WorldEuropePresident Erdogan says Turkey will start ratifying Finland's NATO application
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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Murat Cetinmuhurdar | reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved Finland’s admission to NATO on Friday after months of negotiations, but said discussions with Sweden would continue.

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“We have decided in our parliament to start the ratification of Finland’s accession process to NATO,” Erdogan said in Ankara, according to Reuters translation, as he met his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

Erdogan said he hoped Turkey’s parliament would support Finland’s bid ahead of May 14 elections in the country.

In May, Finland and Sweden sent applications to join the military alliance. He decided to end his policies of neutrality and military non-alignment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the process of joining NATO has not been as smooth as some had hoped, with Ankara in particular demanding more security assurances from Sweden.

By 2022, NATO has expanded to cover three former Soviet states and all former Warsaw Pact countries.

Brian Bache | cnbc

Hungary is supporting

Friday’s announcement paves the way for Finland to become a NATO member in the coming months. Hungary is the only other member of the 30 NATO countries that has yet to ratify membership at the Helsinki summit, although Hungary’s ruling party said on Friday it would support Finland in a March 27 vote.

Friday’s events left Stockholm a bit behind in the process.

Turkey’s opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership is centered around harboring militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Far-right protesters burned Qurans in January and chanted anti-Muslim slogans in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. Ankara immediately condemned the act, as well as Sweden’s permission for the right-wing group to hold the demonstration.

During a NATO meeting in Madrid in June 2022, Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed an agreement, with Ankara paving the way for an agreement on anti-terrorism guarantees. Speaking to CNBC in February, Sweden’s foreign affairs minister, Tobias Billström, said his country had done its part to meet the accord.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said of joining the alliance, adding that he hoped his country would become a full member by July.

Former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb downplayed concerns about Sweden being left behind.

“Both Finland and Sweden will become NATO members at the summit in July. The situation is stable. We are already real members,” he said on Twitter.

—CNBC’s Natasha Turak contributed to this report.

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