The Finnish president wants Finland and Sweden in NATO by the summer – KGET 17

HELSINKI (AP) – Finland’s president said in an interview published Saturday that he believes Finland and Sweden will be admitted to NATO by July, and hinted that he wants the United States to pressure Turkey to approve their membership bids.

If the issue drags on, the entire process of admitting new members to the military alliance will become questionable, President Sauli Niinistö said in an interview with the Finnish news agency STT.

“If it doesn’t happen until the meeting in Vilnius, why should it happen after?” Niinistö said.

Lithuania will host the NATO summit in the capital of the Baltic country from July 11 to 12.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of its existing members to admit new ones. Turkey and Hungary are the only countries in the 30-member military alliance that have not formally supported the accession of Sweden and Finland.

Although Hungary promised to do so in February, Turkey has shown no willingness to ratify the accession of the two countries anytime soon. Niinistö emphasized that the final Turkish decision rests with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I don’t think under any circumstances he will allow himself to be influenced by any public pressure,” Niinistö said. But if something opens up during bilateral negotiations between Turkey and the United States, it could have an impact.”

Turkey is delaying approving Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership because it has been angered by, among other things, a recent series of demonstrations in Stockholm by activists who burned a Koran outside the Turkish embassy and hung an effigy of Erdogan.

In January, Ankara indefinitely postponed a key meeting in Brussels to discuss the entry of the two Nordic countries into NATO.

Niinistö said that Finland and Sweden heard many encouraging statements from NATO last spring – the Nordic duo said in May that they intend to join NATO – about the smooth and painless progress of membership.

He said that did not happen, adding that the delay was not only a headache for the two candidate countries.

“I see that it has already become a problem for NATO. It is clear that the NATO countries were also surprised,” said Niinistö.

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