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Turkey plans to ratify Finland’s NATO bid ahead of May elections: report

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Turkey’s parliament will “highly likely” ratify Finland’s NATO accession bid before it closes in mid-April, two Turkish officials told Reuters on Wednesday, a day before Finnish President Sauli Niinisto visits the country.

Finland’s bid would be approved independently from that of Sweden, which applied for membership in the Western military alliance at the same time as its Nordic neighbor after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, one senior official said.

Turkey has repeatedly said that Sweden needs to take additional steps against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara holds responsible for a 2016 coup attempt. Turkey treats both groups as terrorist organizations.

Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress, especially following several disputes mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.

Amid growing tensions with Sweden, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan signaled for the first time in January that Ankara could give a green light to Helsinki ahead of Stockholm.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Tuesday that the likelihood of Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden had increased, after talks between the three sides in Brussels this week.

“We are looking favorably at Finland’s accession. It would not be wrong to say that accession talks will be held at different times than Sweden,” one Turkish senior official said.

Another official with knowledge of the matter said Finland’s approach to terrorist organizations was in line with Turkey’s sensitivities and that Helsinki had taken steps in that regard.

“It is highly likely that the necessary step for Finland’s NATO membership will be completed before [parliament] closes and the election is held,” the official said.

The officials declined to be named because the discussions are not yet public.

Erdoğan ‘will keep promise’

Parliament is due to close in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14.

Turkish President Erdoğan indicated that he would send ratification of Finland’s NATO membership to parliament soon, saying he would “keep his promise.”

“Mr. President [Niinisto] will come to Turkey on Friday and we will meet. After that, we will fulfill our promise,” Erdoğan told reporters on Wednesday, when asked whether he would send ratification of Finland’s NATO bid to the Turkish parliament next week.

Finland’s Niinisto is due to visit İstanbul March 16-17.

“Positive messages will be given to Finland’s president during his visit,” the second official said.

The parliaments of all 30 members of NATO have to ratify any membership bids for the alliance. Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO allies that have not yet ratified the membership of Finland and Sweden.

The United States and other NATO countries are hoping that the two Nordic countries become members of the alliance at a NATO summit due to be held in July 11 in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.

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