Finland moves closer to becoming NATO member as Turkey ratifies accession

Finland has moved a step closer to becoming a NATO member after Turkey's parliament ratified its accession to the alliance.

Turkey was the last of NATO's 30 members to accept Finland's application, which was submitted in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier in March that Finland had secured Turkey's blessing after taking concrete steps to keep promises to crack down on groups seen by Ankara as terrorists, and to free up defence exports.

However, Turkey is still blocking the approval of Sweden joining NATO, with the government saying Stockholm has so far failed to sufficiently crackdown on similar groups.

Finland and Sweden asked to join the transatlantic military alliance last year in response to President Vladimir Putin's war.

Finland's membership would represent the first enlargement since North Macedonia joined the alliance in 2020.

Turkey has repeatedly said Sweden needed to take additional steps against supporters of Kurdish militants and
members of the network it holds responsible for a 2016 coup attempt.

Ankara treats both groups as terrorist organisations.

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Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress, especially following several disputes mainly over street
protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.

"Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said soon after the Turkish vote.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had urged Turkey and Hungary to ratify both applications. A vote on Sweden's bid has not yet been scheduled in Hungary.

What happens next?

Hungary and Turkey will dispatch acceptance letters to the US which is the depositary - or safekeeper - of NATO under the alliance's 1949 founding treaty.

The letters will be filed in the archives of the US State Department which will immediately notify Mr Stoltenberg that the conditions for inviting Finland to become a NATO member have been met.

NATO will then send Finland an invitation signed by Mr Stoltenberg to join the alliance.

The Nordic nation next sends its own acceptance document, signed by Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, to the US State Department.

Mr Haavisto was authorised to sign the document by President Sauli Niinisto.

Either the Finnish Embassy in Washington or a Finnish government official will deliver the document.

Once Finland's acceptance document reaches the State Department in Washington, the country officially becomes a full member of NATO.