Finland’s president in Turkey to discuss NATO bid

Finland’s president in Turkey to discuss NATO bid

ISTANBUL (AP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting his Finnish counterpart in Ankara on Friday, expressing hope that talks will lead to Turkey’s endorsement of Finland’s NATO membership bid.

Despite the rain, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Erdogan reviewed the military honor guard at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital’s Bestepe district.

The leaders’ talks will focus on Helsinki’s bid to join the military alliance.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in May last year, abandoning decades of non-alignment.

Expansion of the 30-nation bloc has been held by Turkey and Hungary, the only two countries that have yet to approve the Nordic states’ bid, which must be approved by each NATO member’s parliament.

Erdogan has raised specific objections to countries, particularly Sweden, joining NATO. In June last year, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement designed to smooth the path to Nordic accession.

The document includes clauses addressing Ankara’s claims that Stockholm and Helsinki have been too soft on what it considers terrorists, particularly supporters of Kurdish militants who have waged a 39-year insurgency in Turkey and were linked to a 2016 coup attempt by Ankara.

A series of separate protests in Stockholm, including that of an anti-Islam activist who burned a Quran outside the Turkish embassy, ​​also angered Turkish officials.

Erdogan suggested on Wednesday that his country could soon agree to Finland’s application to join NATO. Turkish officials have previously said Finland joining before Sweden is a possible outcome.

Asked by reporters if Turkey’s parliament could approve Finland’s membership after Niinisto’s visit, Erdogan replied: “God willing, if it’s good… whatever the process is, the process will go on.” We will do our part. We will keep our promise.”

Niinisto arrived in Turkey on Thursday and visited areas affected by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed more than 52,000 people in Turkey and Syria last month.

“I have known Erdogan for a long time. I’m sure he has important messages,” Niinisto said 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 Turkey’s decision on the Finnish bid. He stressed his support for Sweden’s swift admission and said in a Twitter post that he had a “good conversation” with Swedish Prime Minister Wolf Kristerson ahead of his visit to Turkey.

Kristersson said Sweden had hoped for a “quick ratification process” after Turkey’s May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections.

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