Erdogan asks parliament to vote on Finland’s Nato bid

Saturday, Mar 18, 2023

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended months of delays on Friday and asked parliament to vote on Finland´s bid to join the Nato defence bloc.

Erdogan´s announcement following talks with his visiting Finnish counterpart raises the chances that the Nordic nation will join the US-led defence alliance without its neighbour Sweden.

Finland and Sweden ended decades of military non-alignment and decided to join the US-led defence alliance in the wake of Russia´s invasion of Ukraine. Their applications were accepted at a June Nato summit that signalled the Western world´s desire to stand up to Russia in the face of Europe´s gravest conflict since World War II.

But the bids still needed to be ratified by all 30 of the alliance members´ parliaments -- a process that got hung up once it reached the turn of Turkiye and Hungary. Friday´s breakthrough raises the chances of Finland formally becoming the 31st member of Nato at an alliance summit scheduled for July in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Erdogan told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto that Helsinki had shown a strong commitment to addressing Ankara´s security concerns.

“We decided to start the protocol of Finland´s accession to Nato in our parliament,” Erdogan told reporters after the talks. “I hope that it will be done before the elections” in May. Erdogan had accused the Nordic neighbours of breaking the terms of a separate deal they reached in June 2022 under which Turkiye agreed to approve the bids.

Turkiye has sought the extradition of dozens of Kurdish and other suspects it accuses of ties to outlawed militants and a failed 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan´s demands became more urgent as he neared a May election in which he will need a strong turnout from his nationalist supporters to extend his two-decade rule. The Turkish leader voiced particular displeasure with Sweden -- a country with a larger Kurdish diaspora and a longer history of disputes with Ankara.