Finland's parliament votes in favour of NATO membership

AFP , AP , Wednesday 1 Mar 2023

Finland's parliament on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining NATO, ahead of ratifications from Hungary and Turkey, increasing the likelihood it will enter the alliance before Nordic neighbour Sweden.

Finland Parliament
File photo: This file photo taken on April 8, 2022 shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky displayed on large screens as he addressed members of the Finnish parliament via video link at the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki, Finland. AFP


Lawmakers approved a law affirming that Finland accepts the terms of the NATO treaty by 184 votes against seven.

The votes came as Turkey announced on Monday that NATO accession talks with Sweden and Finland would be held next month, after being postponed in January over a row about protests held in Stockholm.

"The meeting will be held on March 9," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara, alongside his Hungarian counterpart.

Bids to join NATO must be ratified by all members of the alliance, of which Turkey is a member.

But Ankara was outraged by the protests in January that included the burning of the Koran outside its embassy in Stockholm.

In turn Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden he would not support its bid to join the Western US-led defence alliance.

"It's not possible for us to give consent (to a NATO bid) before Sweden fulfils its commitments" under a three-party protocol signed in Madrid in June, turkish FM Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu also made it clear that Turkey looked warmly on Finland's bid.

"We may separate Sweden and Finland's membership process," he added.

NATO member-states and most allies have long insisted that the Nordic neighbors should join at the same time. However, NATO officials in recent weeks have played down the significance of the two nations joining simultaneously.

"There are different assessments in Turkey about to what extent Finland and Sweden are in the same position to be ratified, and that is a Turkish decision,'' NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters, after chairing a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

"That's not a NATO decision. It's a decision by Turkey,'' he said, while underlining his belief that both countries have fulfilled their commitments to NATO and Turkey and should be allowed to join.

Stoltenberg added that "the sequencing is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that both Finland and Sweden soon become members of the alliance,'' breaking with a stance he has voiced for many months that it was important that they join together.

Turkey is also in an election year, and the topic of Nordic membership of NATO is a possible vote winner.

Previous two rounds of the tri-party NATO talks were attended by foreign ministry officials and focused on a specific list of Turkish demands, which include the expulsion of dozens of mostly Kurdish suspects.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said it would be "unfortunate'' if Finland entered NATO first.

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