(CNN) Türkiye has finally approved finland application to join NATO, ending months of delays while continuing to block Sweden from joining the military alliance.
Turkey’s parliament voted unanimously in favor of Finland’s membership on Thursday, clearing the last hurdle in the accession process.
The vote fulfills a “promise” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow Finland into the defense alliance. Turkey was the last NATO member to approve Finland’s accession, though Hungary only did so on Monday.
In a statement after the vote, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said his country “is now ready to join NATO.”
“All 30 NATO members have now ratified Finland’s membership. I want to thank each of them for their trust and support,” he also said. “Finland will be a strong and capable ally, committed to the security of the Alliance.”
“We look forward to welcoming Sweden to join us as soon as possible,” the Finnish president added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also praised the decision. “I welcome the vote of the #Türkiye Grand National Assembly to complete the ratification of #Finland’s accession. This will make the entire #NATO family stronger and more secure,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
Finland and Sweden had for decades committed to nonalignment with NATO as a way to avoid provoking Moscow. However, that changed when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine and forced the two Scandinavian countries to reassess their neutral status.
An overwhelming majority of NATO members welcomed their applications and approved them in a matter of weeks. But two countries, Türkiye and Hungary, began to stall the process.
NATO has an open door policy, which means that any country can be invited to join if it expresses an interest, as long as it is able and willing to uphold the principles of the bloc’s founding treaty. However, under the accession rules, any member state can veto the accession of a new country.
Erdogan accused Finland and Sweden of harboring Kurdish “terrorist organisations”, while Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed they were spreading “blatant lies” about his country’s rule of law.
Turkey and Hungary later softened their stance on Finland’s accession, opening the door to membership earlier this month. However, they remain opposed to Sweden joining, at least for now.
The Hungarian Parliament voted Monday 182 to 6 in favor of Finland’s request. On Wednesday, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács said there were “a large number of complaints that need to be addressed” before the country ratifies Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
Writing in a blog, Kovács said relations between the two countries “have frayed for years,” which he says makes “closing the gap more challenging.”
“We see the need to clear things up with Sweden in order to proceed,” he added.
Türkiye also appears firm in its opposition to Sweden’s membership. Erdoğan previously said Turkey would not approve Sweden’s NATO membership unless the country extradites “terrorists” at Turkey’s request. Sweden has made it clear that this will not happen and for now the process is stalled.
Turkey is a powerful NATO member, with the bloc’s second-largest military after the United States. Its location on the southeast flank of the alliance makes it a strategically important member. It acts as a buffer between the West and a fringe of Middle Eastern nations with a history of political instability, and where Western states have big interests. The fact that he joined the alliance in 1952, just three years after its founding, adds to its influence.
However, the country has become a troublesome member under Erdogan’s leadership.
Erdogan disagreed with NATO allies on several issues, including Syria and Libya, and opposed the appointment of Dane Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO chief, until then-US President Barack Obama promised that one of Rasmussen’s deputies would be a Turk.
But Turkey has also benefited from its membership in the alliance, both in terms of security and political influence.
CNN’s Mostafa Salem, Yusuf Gezer, Jomana Karadsheh, Isil Sariyuce, Alex Hardie, Nadeen Ebrahim and Abbas Al Lawati contributed to this report.