Finland’s president wants Finland, Sweden into NATO by summer

Finland’s president wants Finland, Sweden into NATO by summer

HELSINKI (AP) – The Finnish president said in an interview published Saturday that he believes Finland and Sweden will join NATO by July and signaled that he wants the United States to put pressure on Turkey to approve their membership bid.

If the issue is dragged out, the entire process of admitting new members to the military alliance will be called into question, President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview with Finnish news agency STT.

“If it didn’t happen by the Vilnius meeting, why would it happen later?” Niinisto said.

Lithuania will host a NATO summit in the Baltic nation’s capital on July 11-12.

The admission of new members to NATO requires the unanimous approval of its existing members. Turkey and Hungary are the only countries in the 30-member military alliance that have not officially supported the accession of Sweden and Finland.

Although Hungary pledged to do so in February, Turkey has not indicated it is willing to approve the two countries’ accession anytime soon. Niinisto emphasized that the final Turkish decision rests with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I think that under no circumstances will he allow himself to be swayed by any public pressure,” Niinisto said. But if anything opens up during the bilateral talks between Turkey and the US, it could have an impact.

Turkey has held off on approving the membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO because it has been angered, among other things, by a recent series of protests in Stockholm in which people burned Qurans and hung effigies of Erdogan outside the Turkish embassy.

In January, Ankara postponed indefinitely a key meeting in Brussels to discuss the two Nordic countries’ entry into NATO.

Niinisto said that Finland and Sweden heard many encouraging statements from NATO last spring – the Nordic duo announced their intention to join NATO in May – about the smooth and painless progress of membership.

He said this had not happened, adding that the delay was not only a headache for the two applicant countries.

“I see that this has already become a problem for NATO. Obviously, NATO countries are also surprised,” Niinisto said.

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