Erdoğan asks parliament to vote on Finland’s Nato bid alone

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Turkey's parliament on Friday to vote on Finland's application to joint the Nato defence alliance, but reiterates that a vote on Sweden's is dependent on extraditions.

Erdoğan asks parliament to vote on Finland's Nato bid alone
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on March 17, 2023. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP

“We have decided to start the protocol of Finland’s accession to NATO in our parliament,” Erdoğan said following talks with his visiting Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö.

The aim is to ratify Finland’s membership before the Turkish election on May 14th.

When Erdoğan was asked at a press conference why the parliament was not also being asked to vote on Swedish membership, he said that Sweden harboured terrorists wanted in Turkey. 
“Sweden has opened its arms for terrorists, which is not the case with Finland,” he said, adding that discussions between Sweden and Turkey would continue.  
“We have given the very nice Swedish prime minister a list of 120 terrorists, but they have not extradited them,” he added. “And so long as they have not done that, we will not have a positive attitude towards Sweden.” 

At the press conference, Niinistö said that the decision to ratify Finland’s membership was “very good news”, but he said that Finland would be exposed until Sweden also joined the defence alliance. 
“We also have Sweden and my feeling is that Finnish Nato membership is not complete without Sweden,” he said. “We are neighbours and have a lot in common. I want to see that in Vilnius we can meet as an alliance consisting of 32 members.” 
Turkey and Hungary are the only two Nato countries which have not yet ratified Finland and Sweden’s Nato memberships.
Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz on Friday said that the country’s parliament planned to hold its delayed vote on Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership on March 31st. 

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Swedish foreign minister disappointed by Turkey not acting on Nato bid

Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom on Friday said he regretted Turkey's decision to hold off moving forward on his country's Nato bid, while pushing ahead with that of Finland.

Swedish foreign minister disappointed by Turkey not acting on Nato bid

“This is a development that we did not want, but that we were prepared for,” Billstrom told journalists, adding that the country’s priority was now securing ratifications from the two holdouts – Turkey and Hungary.

Following months of delays, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that he was asking parliament to vote on Finland’s bid to join the Nato defence bloc.

However, he said he was still not ready to move forward on Sweden, which submitted its bid together with Finland in May of last year.

In another setback for Sweden, Hungary announced Friday that it would vote on Finland’s ratification on March 27, but Sweden’s bid would be decided on “later”.

READ ALSO: Erdoğan asks parliament to vote on Finland’s Nato bid alone

Billstrom declined to comment on the news from Hungary, saying he had no confirmation from Budapest.

The Nordic neighbours ended decades of military non-alignment and decided to join the US-led defence alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their applications were accepted at a June Nato summit, but the bids still needed to be ratified by all 30 of the alliance members’ parliaments – a process that ran into trouble when it came to Turkey and Hungary.

Erdogan has accused Sweden in particular of not honouring the terms of a separate deal they reached in June 2022, under which Turkey had agreed to approve the bids.

READ ALSO: ‘Increased chance that Finland joins NATO before Sweden’: PM

Turkey has sought the extradition of dozens of Kurdish and other suspects it accuses of ties to outlawed militants and a failed 2016 coup attempt.

On Friday, the Turkish head of state said Sweden had still not agreed to extradite a list of some 120 people wanted by Ankara.

In Stockholm, Billstrom insisted that Sweden was living up to its commitments under the deal.

“We are doing everything that is written in this memorandum, but we do not do less and we do not do more than what is written in it,” he said.

READ ALSO: KEY DATES: The milestones ahead for Sweden’s Nato membership  

“This means that when extradition cases arise that are related to this memorandum, there will be decisions that can be positive and that can be negative from Turkey’s point of view and that is how it will simply be,” he added.