Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he will ask Türkiye's parliament to vote on Finland's NATO application following his meeting with his Finnish counterpart in Ankara on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met his Finnish counterpart in Ankara on Friday, signalling Türkiye's approval of Finland’s NATO membership bid.
In a statement following a meeting with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan said that he will ask Türkiye's parliament to vote on Finland's NATO application.
"We have decided to start the protocol of Finland's accession to NATO in our parliament," Erdogan said.
The talks between the two leaders focused on Helsinki’s application to join the military alliance.
Despite the rain, Erdogan and Niinisto reviewed the military honour guard at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital’s Bestepe district before holding a formal meeting.
But as Finland's NATO ratification process begins in the Turkish parliament, there is bad news for Sweden: Erdogan said Türkiye cannot ratify Sweden's application for the bloc, noting Stockholm's refusal to extradite 120 suspected terrorists.
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in May last year following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, abandoning decades of nonalignment.
The expansion of the 30-nation bloc has been held up by Türkiye and Hungary, the only two countries not to have yet ratified the Nordic states’ bids, which the parliaments of each NATO member must approve.
Erdogan has raised specific objections to the countries — especially Sweden — joining NATO. In June last year Türkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement designed to smooth the path for the Nordic accession.
The document included clauses addressing Ankara’s concerns that Stockholm and Helsinki have been too soft on those it considers terrorists, particularly supporters of the PKK terror group who have waged a 40-year terror campaign in Türkiye and FETO cultists associated with a 2016 coup attempt.
READ MORE: Türkiye to 'do its part' on Finland's NATO membership bid: Erdogan
A series of separate demonstrations in Stockholm, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy, also angered Turkish officials.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and lawmakers have repeatedly promised to ratify the two country's NATO membership applications.
But Hungary's parliament has repeatedly postponed a ratification vote and has not given a firm date on when the vote will take place.
Erdogan on Wednesday had suggested that his country may soon agree to Finland’s application to join NATO. Turkish officials previously said that Finland joining ahead of Sweden was a more likely outcome.
Asked earlier by reporters if the Turkish parliament might ratify Finland’s membership after Niinisto’s visit, Erdogan responded: “God willing, if it is for the best ... Whatever the process is, the process will function.
We will do our part. We will keep our promise."
Niinisto arrived in Türkiye on Thursday and toured areas affected by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed more than 52,000 people in Türkiye and Syria last month.
“I have known Erdogan for a long time. I am sure he has important messages,” Niinisto said on Thursday while visiting Kahramanmaras, one of the provinces worst-hit by the February 6 earthquake.
Before leaving Helsinki, Niinisto said Turkish officials had requested his presence in Ankara to announce Türkiye's decision on the Finnish bid. He also stressed his support for Sweden’s swift admission and in a Twitter post said he had had a “good conversation” with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson prior to his Türkiye trip.
Kristersson said Sweden hoped for “a rapid ratification process” after Türkiye's May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections.
READ MORE: Türkiye: Terror propaganda still ongoing in Sweden and Finland