Finland’s president due in Türkiye for NATO accession

Finland’s president due in Türkiye for NATO accession

Finland’s president due in Türkiye for NATO accession

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, will meet on March 17 to discuss Finland’s bid to join NATO amid reports that Ankara plans to ratify Finland’s accession protocol to the alliance in the coming days while delaying Sweden’s bid.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled that Ankara will ratify Helsinki’s application and that he will talk about this issue with visiting Niinistö on March 17.

“We will run the necessary procedures. We will do our share and keep our promise. We will meet Mr. President, and we will do whatever is necessary,” he told reporters at the parliament. The Turkish parliament is expected to go to recess before mid-April.

“Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö will pay a working visit to Türkiye on March 16-17, 2023, at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. All aspects of the Türkiye-Finland relations, as well as the steps to be taken to enhance the cooperation between the two countries, will be discussed during the talks to be held in Istanbul on March 17,” read a statement issued by the Turkish presidency on March 15.

“Besides the bilateral relations, Finland’s NATO membership application in accordance with the trilateral memorandum signed on the margins of the NATO Madrid Summit, the Türkiye-EU relations and current regional and global issues are also expected to be on the agenda of the talks,” it said.

The visit comes as Türkiye is voicing its intention to ratify Finland’s accession protocol to the alliance while delaying Sweden’s application. Both Nordic states applied to join NATO in mid-2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Türkiye and Hungary are the only two members that have not yet given parliamentary consent to them.

Türkiye says Sweden has to fulfill its commitments to toughen its anti-terror measures against the presence of the PKK and FETÖ on its soils. Sweden will put its new anti-terror bill into force on June 1. Stockholm is expecting that it will join the alliance later this summer and before the NATO leaders’ summit in July.

Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın, who held talks in the United States earlier this week, stressed that there could be some positive developments concerning the Finnish bid in the coming days.

Niinisto will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and will also discuss Türkiye’s efforts for relief and reconstruction of the earthquake-hit region, as well as his country’s and Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, his office said in a statement.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson acknowledged on March 14 that the likelihood of Finland joining NATO before Sweden has increased” in recent weeks but stressed the entry was just a matter of time.

Ankara suspended negotiations with Sweden after protests in January that included the burning of the Quran outside Türkiye’s embassy in Stockholm, but talks resumed in Brussels on March 9. They agreed to continue the talks following the Brussels meeting, which took place at the NATO headquarters with the participation of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.