Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, has said he expects his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to tell him whether Turkey is endorsing the Nordic country’s Nato membership application when the two meet in Ankara later this week.
“It was known that once President Erdoğan has made his decision concerning ratification of Finland’s membership of Nato, he would wish to meet and fulfil his promise directly from president to president,” Niinistö told Reuters on Wednesday.
The news came as the Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, said on a visit to Berlin that he hoped his country’s Nato accession would be ratified by Turkey soon after general elections scheduled for May.
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, told reporters that the accession of Sweden and Finland to the military alliance was critical “for our security”. Both countries last year abandoned decades of military non-alignment in a historic policy shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, submitting simultaneous Nato applications and pledging to complete the process “hand in hand”.
However, Finland’s parliament this month overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing the country to join Nato, increasing the chances of it becoming a member of the transatlantic defensive alliance before its Nordic neighbour.
Entrants must be approved by all 30 existing members and while both applications still await approval from Hungary and Turkey, Sweden’s faces objections from Ankara over claims it is harbouring what it considers members of terrorist groups.
Parliamentary approval does not mean Finland will automatically join Nato once Turkey and Hungary ratify its application, but the bill must be signed into law by the president within three months, setting a deadline on how long it can wait.
Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has repeatedly delayed a parliamentary vote on the membership bids, accusing Finland and Sweden of spreading “outright lies” about the state of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary.
A vote in Budapest is still likely, however, before the end of March. Erdoğan, meanwhile, has said his country is prepared to approve Finland’s application but still has strong reservations about Sweden.
Ankara said earlier this month that negotiations with Finland and Sweden would resume after talks with Sweden were halted over a row about protests held in Stockholm, including a burning of the Qur’an in front of Turkey’s embassy.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, has said Sweden had still not fulfilled its obligations under a memorandum signed last year and it “will not be possible” for Ankara to approve Sweden’s Nato bid before it does.
Nato has said it hopes both Nordic countries will be members in time for a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, scheduled for 11 July.
Reuters contributed to this report.
• This article was amended on 15 March 2023. An earlier version relied on an inaccurate quote to say that Sauli Niinistö believed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had decided to ratify Finland’s membership of Nato. In fact, he said Erdoğan had made his decision, but did not say what he thought it was.