HELSINKI (AP) — The Finnish president said in an interview published Saturday that he is confident Finland and Sweden will be admitted to NATO by July, and indicated he wants the United States to back Turkey in their membership bids. Forced to approve.
In an interview with the Finnish news agency STT, President Sauli Niinisto said that if the issue drags on, the whole process of admitting new members to the military alliance would become questionable.
“If it doesn’t happen from the Vilnius meeting, why should it happen later?” Niinisto said.
Lithuania is set to host a NATO summit in the Baltic nation’s capital on July 11-12.
NATO requires unanimous approval from its existing members to admit new ones. Turkey and Hungary are the only nations in the 30-member military alliance that have not formally supported Sweden and Finland’s accession.
While Hungary has promised to do so in February, Turkey has not indicated a willingness to ratify the two countries’ accession anytime soon. Niinisto stressed that Turkey’s final decision rested with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I think that under no circumstances will he allow himself to be swayed by any public pressure,” Niinisto said. “But if something opens up during the bilateral talks between Turkey and the United States, it could have an impact.”
Turkey is not approving of Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO because it has been angered, among other things, by a recent series of demonstrations in Stockholm by activists burning Qurans and hanging an effigy of Erdogan outside the Turkish embassy.
In January, Ankara indefinitely postponed a key meeting in Brussels that would have discussed the two Nordic countries’ entry into NATO.
Niinisto said that Finland and Sweden heard many encouraging statements from NATO last spring – the Nordic pair stated their intention to join NATO in May – about smooth and painless progress of membership.
This did not happen, he said, adding that the delay is not only a headache for the two applicant countries.
“I can see that this has already become a problem for NATO. Frankly, even the NATO countries are perplexed,” Niinisto said.
The Associated Press