Turkey's Erdogan will 'keep promise' in approving Finland's Nato bid
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted that Ankara will approve Finland’s bid to join Nato after months of negotiations.
"Whatever the process is, we will run that process. We will do our part. We will keep our promise," Erdogan told journalists at the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, the state-run agency, Anadolu, reported.
According to Bloomberg, Erdogan asked Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to meet him in person to give his approval to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato). Niinisto is due to travel to Ankara on Thursday.
“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.”
The statement from Erdogan marks the clearest sign yet that Turkey will approve Helsinki's bid to join the defence pact.
Finland and Sweden both applied last year to join Nato, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but all 30 member states must approve their bids.
Hungary has delayed its ratification vote, while Turkey's main complaint has been with Sweden's refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Ankara links to outlawed Kurdish fighters and a failed 2016 coup attempt.
Both Sweden and Finland signed a trilateral memorandum in which they promised to alleviate Ankara’s concerns regarding the recruitment, financing and activities of "terrorist organisations" such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged decades-long warfare against the Turkish government over Kurdish rights. Turkey, the EU, and the US have designated the PKK as a terror group due to its attack against civilian targets.
According to Reuters, a senior Turkish official said that Finland's bid would be approved independently from that of Sweden.
Waiting until Turkish elections
In January, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto suggested that Turkey was likely to hold off on ratifying the Nato membership for Sweden and Finland until after the Turkish presidential elections in May.
Haavisto said during a news conference that he believed a break was needed in talks between the two Nordic countries and Turkey, following anger at the burning of a Quran by a far-right activist outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Erdogan on 23 January said Sweden should not expect his country's support for Nato membership, following the incident.
"Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their Nato membership," Erdogan said in a speech in January.
"If you love members of terrorist organisations and enemies of Islam so much and protect them, then we advise you to seek their support for your countries' security."