Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan
Murat Cetinmuhurdar | Reuters
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday approved Finland’s NATO membership after months of talks, but added that talks with Sweden would continue.
“We have decided to initiate the ratification of Finland’s NATO membership process in our parliament,” Erdogan said in Ankara, according to a Reuters translation, as he met with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.
Erdogan added that he hoped Turkey’s parliament would approve Finland’s candidacy before the country’s May 14 elections.
In May, Finland and Sweden sent in applications to join the military alliance. They decided to end their policies of neutrality and military non-alignment following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But the process of joining NATO has not been as smooth as some had expected, especially with Ankara demanding more security guarantees from Sweden.
From 2022, NATO has expanded to include three former Soviet states and all former Warsaw Pact countries.
Bryn Bach | CNBC
Friday’s announcement paves the way for Finland’s NATO membership in the coming months. Hungary is the only other member yet to approve Helsinki’s membership among the 30 NATO nations, although Hungary’s ruling party said on Friday it would back Finland in a vote on March 27.
Friday’s developments leave Stockholm a little behind in the process.
Turkey’s opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership hinges on what it says is the harboring of militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In January, far-right protesters burned a Koran and chanted anti-Muslim slogans outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. Ankara immediately denounced the act, as well as Sweden’s granting of a permit to the right-wing group to organize the demonstration.
At a NATO meeting in Madrid in June 2022, Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed an agreement outlining the path to compromise, with Ankara calling for new anti-terrorism safeguards. Speaking to CNBC in February, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said his country had done its part to honor the deal.
“It’s only a matter of time,” he said of joining the alliance, adding that he expects his country to become a full member by July. .
Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has played down concerns that Sweden is being left behind.
“Finland and Sweden will become NATO members no later than the July summit. The situation is stable. We are already de facto members,” he said on Twitter.
— CNBC’s Natasha Turak contributed to this report.