Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members that have not yet ratified the accession of Finland and Sweden.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that Ankara may soon ratify Finland’s application for NATO membership and allow the country to join the military alliance separately from Sweden.
Alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Finland and Sweden abandoned decades of nonalignment and applied to join the alliance. All 30 NATO members have approved their applications and 28 have ratified their accession. Only Turkey and Hungary have not yet done so.
Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too soft on groups it considers “terrorist” organizations and existential threats, including Kurdish groups.
Turkish authorities have also been angered by a series of demonstrations in Sweden, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned a Koran outside the Turkish embassy.
Ankara, however, said it had fewer problems with Finland’s membership.
Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Turkey could ratify Finland’s membership after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto’s visit this week, Erdogan replied: “God willing, if it’s for the good.”
“Whatever the process is, it will work,” Erdogan said. “We will do our part. We will keep our promise. We will meet with the president on Friday and fulfill the promise we made.
Niinisto is due to arrive in Turkey alongside Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Thursday, when the two officials will tour areas affected by devastating earthquakes that struck parts of Turkey and Syria last month.
Niinisto and Erdogan are due to meet in Istanbul on Friday.
The Finnish president said he expected Erdogan to confirm Turkey’s support, according to Reuters.
“We knew that when Turkish President Erdogan, for his part, decided to ratify Finland’s NATO membership, he wanted to meet and fulfill his promise from president to president,” Niinisto said in an email to Reuters
Meanwhile, the Turkish president’s positive tone was 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 then [parliament] closes and elections are held,” said one of the officials.
The Turkish parliament session is due to end in mid-April ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14.
“Positive messages will be given to the Finnish president during his visit,” the second official said.
The United States and other NATO countries hope the two Scandinavian countries will become members of the alliance at a NATO summit scheduled for July 11 in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.