ANKARA, March 30 (Reuters) – Turkey’s parliament approved a bill on Thursday to allow Finland to join NATO, paving the way for the country to become part of the Western defense alliance as the war continues. in Ukraine.
Turkey’s parliament was the last among the 30-member alliance to ratify Finland’s membership after Hungary’s legislature passed a similar bill earlier this week.
President Tayyip Erdogan said in early March that Finland had won Turkey’s blessing after taking concrete steps to fulfill promises to crack down on groups viewed by Ankara as terrorists and free up defense exports.
Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the process has been delayed by Türkiye and Hungary. The parliaments of all NATO members must ratify the newcomers.
“NATO membership will strengthen Finland’s security and enhance stability and security in the Baltic Sea region and northern Europe,” the Finnish government said in a statement after the vote by the Turkish parliament.
Turkey is still holding off approving the membership bid of Finland’s neighbor Sweden, which Ankara says has not gone far enough to crack down on people Turkey considers terrorists. The three countries signed a pact on the issue last year.
The foreign affairs committee of the Turkish parliament unanimously approved Finland’s bill last week. The Turkish legislative process was taking place as it prepares for parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14.
Finland’s membership would represent the first expansion since North Macedonia joined the alliance in 2020.
Turkey has repeatedly said Sweden needed to take additional action against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara holds responsible for a 2016 coup attempt. Turkey treats both groups as terrorist organizations.
Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress, especially after several disputes, mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.
The US State Department said it welcomed Finland’s ratification of Turkey and encouraged it to quickly ratify Sweden’s accession as well.
“Sweden and Finland are strong and capable partners who share NATO values and will strengthen the Alliance and contribute to European security,” a department spokesman said.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, shortly after the Turkish vote, said: “Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports their application.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he urged Turkey and Hungary to ratify both requests. A vote on Sweden’s bid has not yet been scheduled in Hungary.
The United States and other NATO countries hope that the two Nordic countries will become members of the alliance at a NATO summit to be held on July 11 in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
Ratification of Finland’s NATO membership by the Turkish parliament will be approved by President Tayyip Erdogan and then published in the country’s Official Gazette.
Finland has already completed the legal ratification process on its own, in anticipation of its upcoming parliamentary elections on Sunday and a corresponding electoral recess that might otherwise have postponed the process for a few months.
Having completed the ratification process, both Turkey and Hungary must submit their approval documents to the US government in Washington, which is NATO’s depository under the alliance’s founding treaty.
Stoltenberg will formally invite Finland to join NATO.
As a final step, Finland will hand over its “instrument of accession,” a document signed by its foreign minister, with the US government, the Finnish government said.
When Finland’s instrument of accession document reaches the US State Department, the Nordic country will formally become a member of NATO.
Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Mert Ozkan; Edited by Alistair Bell and Stephen Coates
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