Turkiye’s parliament to vote on Finland’s NATO bid

ANKARA (AFP): Turkiye was set Thursday to become the final NATO member to approve Finland’s membership in the US-led defense alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkiye’s parliament scheduled a vote on the Nordic country’s bid to become the 31st member of the Western defense alliance for 2:00 p.m. (1100 GMT).

Ratification is all but certain after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended months of negotiations and blessed Finland’s candidacy earlier this month.

Erdogan controls parliament through an alliance with a right-wing party. Most opposition lawmakers also support the bid.

Turkiye’s ratification will leave Finland — a country with a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia — with only a few technical steps before formally joining the bloc.

Finland and its neighbor Sweden ended decades of military non-alignment and decided to join the alliance last May.

Their applications were accepted at a June 2022 NATO summit but the bids still needed to be ratified by all alliance member parliaments — a process that stalled once it reached Turkiye and Hungary.

Erdogan put up stiff resistance to Sweden’s candidacy because of a series of long-standing disputes.

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 hopes to join the alliance in time for a July summit in Vilnius.

Most analysts believe that Turkiye will only vote on its candidacy after the country’s May general election.