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Turkey to start ratifying Finland's Nato bid, says Erdogan

Turkish president gives green light to Finland's membership but says Sweden is still supporting 'terrorists'
Turkish President Erdogan and Finnish President Niinisto at a welcoming ceremony in Ankara, 17 March 2023 (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Reuters)

Turkey will start the process of ratifying Finland's Nato membership bid in parliament after the country took concrete steps to keep its promises, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

In a news conference with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan said Turkey will continue discussions with Sweden on terrorism-related issues and that Sweden's Nato membership bid would depend directly on the measures it took.

'We can’t have a positive approach to Sweden as long as they won’t or can’t send us those terrorists'

- Recep Tayyip Erdogan

"We have decided to initiate the ratification of Finland's accession process to Nato in our parliament," Erdogan told reporters after meeting with Niinisto, adding that he hoped parliament would endorse the bid before the Turkish elections on 14 May. 

The parliaments of all 30 Nato members must ratify newcomers.

Turkey had been the only member of the alliance other than Hungary not to have given Finland and Sweden the go-ahead.

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Hungary's legislature will now vote on the ratification of Finland's Nato accession on 27 March and the majority ruling party bloc will unanimously support the bid, the leader of the ruling Fidesz party's parliamentary group said on Friday, according to Reuters. 

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato's secretary general, welcomed Turkey's decision. "This will strengthen Finland’s security, it will strengthen Sweden’s security, and it will strengthen Nato," he said.

The British government followed suit but said in a statement that a "clear path for Sweden's swift accession is also essential". 

Niinisto said Turkey's decision was "very important" for Finland, which shares a long border with Russia.

But while standing alongside Erdogan, the Finnish prime minister said that the process of joining the alliance would "not be complete without Sweden".

Swedish support for 'terrorists' 

Both traditionally neutral countries, Finland and Sweden, applied to join Nato in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 but faced unexpected objections from Turkey. 

Ankara says Stockholm harbours Kurdish militants, which it calls terrorists. Sweden denies the charges.

At his press conference on Friday, Erdogan said that his country had sent a list of 120 "terrorists" to Stockholm and none of them had been extradited. 

Turkey may accept Finland into Nato without Sweden: Erdogan
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“The prime minister is a good person but we can’t have a positive approach to Sweden as long as they won’t, or can’t, send us those terrorists," Erdogan said. 

The Turkish government has been angered by demonstrations in Stockholm in support of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group, and by interviews with YPG leaders on Swedish state TV. 

The People's Defence Units, known as the YPG, is a Kurdish armed group that is also deemed a terrorist outfit by Ankara. 

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said earlier this week that it was likely Finland would join Nato without Sweden if Turkey continued to block his country's accession. 

Turkey, Sweden, and Finland signed a memorandum outlining steps the sides would take to address Turkish concerns on arms exports and what Ankara perceives to be terrorism at the alliance’s summit in Madrid last summer when Nato leaders moved to invite Sweden and Finland to join.

Turkey now believes that Finland has fulfilled its pledges from the Madrid summit.

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