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Erdogan gives green light to NATO candidate

Erdogan gives green light to NATO candidate

Turkish president says parliament will approve Finland’s membership bid, while Sweden remains in limbo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country’s parliament will ratify Finland’s application to join the NATO bloc. Before Finland and Sweden could join the alliance, Türkiye demanded that the Nordic nations crack down on alleged Kurdish terrorists.

“We have decided to start Finland’s NATO accession protocol in our parliament,” Erdogan told reporters, after a meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in Ankara. “When it comes to fulfilling its promises in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken genuine and concrete steps,” added the Turkish leader.

Finland and Sweden renounced their neutrality and applied to join the US-led bloc last May, in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. NATO membership, however, requires the unanimous consent of all existing members, and Erdogan demanded that the two applicants lift arms embargoes on Türkiye, extradite suspected Kurdish and Gulenist terrorists and investigate the activity of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) within its borders. .

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Finland and Sweden agreed to these demands in a trilateral memorandum signed last June. However, Ankara has accused Stockholm of keeping its promises. Swedish authorities deny the allegations, but Erdogan remains unconvinced, and the Swedish authorities’ refusal to stop a recent Koran-burning protest further raised tensions.

Sweden’s chances of joining NATO, he said on Friday, “will be directly linked to the concrete steps that Sweden will take” in the “fight against terrorism”.

While Sweden and Finland initially said they would join NATO “hand in hand,” both nations have since admitted they will likely join separately. “It is not out of the question that Sweden and Finland will ratify in separate steps,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told reporters earlier this week.

Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Niinisto said his own country’s bid would not be “complete without Sweden”, adding that the two states “have so much common interest, being neighbors in the Baltic Sea area”.

Apart from Turkey, all current NATO members, with the exception of Hungary, have ratified the requests of Sweden and Finland. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he is in favor of the two states joining the alliance, but has also accused politicians in Stockholm and Helsinki of “spreading blatant lies” about his conservative government.

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