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Turkey Ratifies Finland NATO Membership03/31 06:06


   ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's parliament on Thursday ratified Finland's 
application to join NATO, lifting the last hurdle in the way of the Nordic 
country's long-delayed accession into the Western military alliance.

   All 276 lawmakers present voted in favor of Finland's bid, days after 
Hungary's parliament also endorsed Helsinki's accession.

   "This will make the whole NATO family stronger & safer," NATO Secretary 
General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter in welcoming Turkey's action.

   Alarmed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Finland and Sweden 
abandoned their decades-long policy of nonalignment and applied to join the 

   Full unanimity is required to admit new members into the 30-member alliance, 
and Turkey and Hungary were the last two NATO members to ratify Finland's 

   Sweden's bid to join the alliance, meanwhile, has been left hanging, with 
both Turkey and Hungary holding out on giving it the green light despite 
expressing support for NATO's expansion.

   Turkey's government accuses Sweden of being too lenient toward groups it 
deems to be terrorist organizations and security threats, including militant 
Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.

   More recently, Turkey was angered by a series of demonstrations in Sweden, 
including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Quran outside the 
Turkish Embassy.

   Hungary's government contends some Swedish politicians have made derisive 
statements about the condition of Hungary's democracy and played an active role 
in ensuring that billions in European Union funds were frozen over alleged 
rule-of-law and democracy violations.

   Turkish officials have said that unlike Sweden, Finland fulfilled its 
obligations under a memorandum signed last year under which the two countries 
pledged to address Turkey's security concerns.

   "As a NATO member, we naturally had some expectations and requests regarding 
the security concerns of our country," Akif Cagatay Kilic, a legislator from 
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing party, told parliament before the 
vote. "I would like to underline the concrete steps and their implementation by 
Finland, which supported and shaped the decision we are taking here."

   Kilic added: "I'm aware that there is a large number of people watching us 
from Finland. ... We can say to them: 'Welcome to NATO.'"

   Some opposition parties were critical of the Turkish government's position 
toward the two Nordic countries.

   "Unfortunately, (Erdogan's ruling party) turned the right to veto Finland 
and Sweden's membership bids into a tool for blackmail and threat. We do not 
approve of it," said Hisyar Ozsoy, a legislator from the pro-Kurdish party. "We 
find the bargaining process (to press for) the extradition of Kurdish dissident 
writers, politicians and journalists ... to be ugly, wrong and unlawful."

   Asked earlier this week about Sweden's NATO membership, Erdogan told 
reporters: "There are certain things we expect of them. They must be fulfilled 

   Sweden, which made constitutional changes to pass tougher anti-terrorism 
laws, has expressed hope that it will be able to join before NATO's July summit 
in Vilnius, Lithuania.

   "Sweden faces more significant obstacles in its bid," Hamish Kinnear, Middle 
East and North Africa analyst at the risk intelligence company Verisk 
Maplecroft, wrote in emailed comments.

   "Turkey is unlikely to approve its acceptance into the alliance before the 
election in May. The Quran burning incident sparked popular rage in Turkey and 
President Tayyip Recep Erdogan won't want to risk angering his conservative 
base ahead of the polls," Kinnear said.

   The accession of Finland, which has a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) border with 
Russia, has geographic and political importance for NATO, said Mai'a Cross, 
professor of political science at Northeastern University.

   "Finland is at a very important strategic location and having that kind of 
shift from neutrality to respond to Russia's aggression is bolstering the 
demonstration of the political will of NATO," she said.

   Cross added that the delay gave Finland more of a chance to prepare.

   "Finland is already sitting in the meetings with NATO. It's already 
revamping its armed forces," she said. "So when it steps into NATO formally, it 
can actually hit the ground running."

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