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Erdogan hints Turkey may ratify Finland’s NATO membership

Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members that have yet to ratify the accession of Finland and Sweden.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested Ankara could soon ratify Finland’s application to join NATO and allow the country to join the military alliance separately from Sweden.

Alarmed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Finland and Sweden abandoned decades of non-alignment and applied to join the alliance. All 30 NATO members have approved their application and 28 have ratified their accession. Only Turkey and Hungary have yet to do so.

The Turkish government accuses Sweden of being too lenient towards groups it considers “terror” organizations and existential threats, including Kurdish groups.

Turkish officials have also been angered by a series of demonstrations in Sweden, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Koran outside the Turkish embassy.

However, Ankara has said it has fewer problems with Finland’s membership.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Turkey could ratify Finland’s membership after a visit by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto this week, Erdogan replied: “God willing, if it’s for the best.”

“Whatever the process is, it will function,” Erdogan said. “We will do our part. We will keep our promise. We will meet the president on Friday and fulfill the promise we made.

Niinisto is scheduled to arrive in Turkey along with Secretary of State Pekka Haavisto on Thursday, when the two officials will tour areas hit by devastating earthquakes that hit parts of Turkey and Syria last month.

Niinisto and Erdogan will meet in Istanbul on Friday.

The Finnish president said he expects Erdogan to confirm Turkey’s support, Reuters news agency reported.

“We knew that when Turkish President Erdogan, for his part, has decided to ratify Finland’s NATO membership, he wants to meet president to president and fulfill his promise,” Niinisto said in an email to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the Turkish president’s positive tone was also echoed by two Turkish officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“It is very likely that the necessary step for Finland’s NATO membership will be completed before (parliament) closes and elections are held,” said one of the officials.

Turkey’s parliamentary session is expected to end in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14.

“Positive messages will be given to the President of Finland during his visit,” the second official said.

The United States and other NATO countries hope that the two Nordic countries will join the alliance at a NATO summit to be held in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, on July 11.