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Turkey becomes last NATO member to ratify Finland's bid

March 30, 2023

Turkish lawmakers have unanimously backed the Nordic country's accession to the military alliance, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended months of negotiations and blessed Finland's candidacy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (2nd L) walk past the honor guards during an official ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in Ankara earlier in MarchImage: Emin Sansar/AA/picture alliance

Turkey's parliament ratified Finland's application to join NATO on Thursday. In doing so, it became the final of 30 NATO member states to support Finland's accession, clearing the last major hurdle for the country to join the military alliance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blessed Finland's candidacy earlier this month after months of negotiations.

"This evening, we are keeping the promises we made to Finland," ruling party lawmaker Akif Cagatay Kilic said moments before the vote. Lawmakers unanimously voted in favor of the Nordic country's accession. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Turkey's ratification, saying it will make the military alliance "stronger and safer." 

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia, is now only a few formalities away from becoming NATO's 31st member. Officials expect the process to be finalized as early as next week.

Hard way to NATO

Fearing that they would be next targeted after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, Finland and Sweden abandoned their traditional position of military non-alignment and applied for NATO membership in May 2022.

Admitting a new country requires unanimity among all member nations.

Sweden's bid is still on hold due to Erdogan's demands to address certain security-related issues.

Hungary approved Finland's bid to join NATO last week but the vote on Sweden has not yet been put on the parliamentary agenda.

A spokesman for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday called on Sweden to "clear the air" and address "an ample amount of grievances" for parliament to ratify its bid.

Sweden still 'hopeful' 

Just last week, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom had said that "it goes without saying" that his country would become a member by the time of the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.

But on Thursday, he told the Swedish national news agency TT that he had noted Budapest's recent remarks and had to alter his words. 

"I think 'hopeful' in this context is better," he added.

fb, lo/sri (AFP, dpa)