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Turkish parliament ratifies Finland’s NATO membership

ANKARA: Turkey’s parliament approved a bill on Thursday allowing Finland to join NATO, paving the way for the country to join the Western defense alliance as the war in Ukraine rages on.

After Hungary’s legislature approved a similar bill earlier this week, the Turkish parliament was the last of the alliance’s 30 members to ratify Finland’s membership.

President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this month that Finland had won Turkey’s approval after taking concrete steps to keep promises to crack down on terrorist groups and free up defense exports.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland, and Sweden asked to join NATO last year. However, Turkey and Hungary have stymied the process. All NATO members’ parliaments must ratify newcomers.

“NATO membership will strengthen Finland’s security and improve stability and security in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe,” the Finnish government said in a statement issued in response to the Turkish parliament vote.

Turkey has yet to approve Finland’s neighbor Sweden’s membership bid, claiming that Ankara has not gone far enough in cracking down on people Turkey considers terrorists. Last year, the three countries reached an agreement on the subject.

Last week, the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee unanimously approved the Finland bill. Turkey’s legislative process was underway as the country prepared for parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14.

Finland’s accession would be the first since North Macedonia joined the alliance in 2020.

Turkey has repeatedly stated that Sweden must take additional measures against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara blames for a failed coup attempt in 2016. Turkey considers both groups to be terrorist organizations.

Talks between Sweden and Turkey have stalled, owing primarily to disagreements over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.

The US State Department welcomed Turkey’s ratification of Finland’s accession and urged it to do the same for Sweden.

“Sweden and Finland are both strong, capable partners who share NATO’s values and will strengthen the Alliance and contribute to European security,” said a spokesperson for the department.

Soon after the Turkish vote, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin stated, “Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that he has urged both Turkey and Hungary to ratify the applications. Hungary has not yet scheduled a vote on Sweden’s bid.

What next?

The United States and other NATO countries are hoping that the two Nordic countries will join the alliance at a NATO summit scheduled for July 11 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to approve the Turkish parliament’s ratification of Finland’s NATO membership, which will then be published in the country’s Official Gazette.

Finland has already completed the legal ratification process in advance of its upcoming parliamentary election on Sunday and a corresponding electoral recess, which could have otherwise delayed the process by several months.

Following ratification, both Turkey and Hungary must send their approving documents to the US government in Washington, which serves as NATO’s depository under the alliance’s founding treaty.

After that, Stoltenberg will formally invite Finland to join NATO.

The Finnish government stated that as a final step, Finland will deliver its “instrument of accession,” a document signed by its foreign minister, to the US government.

When Finland’s instrument of accession is received by the US State Department, the Nordic country will formally join NATO.

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