Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country may soon approve Finland’s application to join the NATO military alliance, fulfilling its pledge to the Nordic country following months of negotiations.
Erdogan made the remarks at the Grand National Assembly in Ankara on Wednesday, ahead of his scheduled meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto later this week.
“Whatever the process is, we will run that process. We will do our part. We will keep our promise,” Erdogan said, marking the clearest sign yet that Turkey will approve Helsinki’s NATO membership bid.
Niinisto is due to travel to Ankara on Thursday, after Erdogan asked the Finnish president to meet him in person to give his approval to join NATO.
“I have said yes to the invitation,” Niinisto said. “It was known that once Turkey’s President Erdogan has made up his decision on ratifying Finland’s NATO membership, he will want to meet and make good on his promise from one president to another.”
Finland and Sweden applied last year to join the transatlantic defense pact after Russia attacked Ukraine.
All 30 NATO members must unanimously agree on admitting new members, so that they can benefit from the pact’s collective security guarantee.
Finland and Sweden had pledged to enter the alliance “hand in hand,” but Turkey has held up Sweden’s application over a row about protests held in Stockholm, including the burning of the Holy Quran in front of Turkey’s embassy.
Therefore, if Turkey approves the Finnish application, as is expected, Finland will join NATO without its Nordic partner.
Turkey initially opposed Finland and Sweden’s bid, accusing the two Nordic countries of giving a safe haven to forces linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.
However, in recent weeks, Erdogan has softened his tone regarding Finland’s attempt to join NATO, signaling that Ankara could accept Helsinki’s bid without its Nordic neighbor.
A senior Turkish official told Reuters that Finland’s bid would be approved independently of Sweden’s.
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