HELSINKI (AP) – The Finnish president said in an interview published on Saturday that he trusts that Finland and Sweden will be admitted into North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by July, and hinted that he wants the United States (US) to put pressure on Turkiye to approve their membership bids.
If the issue drags on, the entire process of admitting new members into the military alliance will become questionable, President Sauli Niinistö said in an interview with the Finnish news agency STT.
“If it doesn’t happen by the Vilnius meeting, why should it happen afterwards?” Niinistö 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. Turkiye and Hungary are the only nations in the 30-member military alliance that haven’t formally endorsed Sweden and Finland’s accession.
While Hungary has pledged to do so in February, Turkiye hasn’t indicated willingness to ratify the two countries’ accession any time soon.
Niinistö stressed that the final Turkish decision is up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I think that under no circumstances will he allow himself to be influenced by any public pressure,” Niinistö said.
“But if something opens up during the bilateral talks between Turkiye and the US, it might have an impact.”
Turkiye has been holding off approving Sweden and Finland’s membership into NATO as it has been infuriated, among other things, by a recent series of demonstrations in Stockholm.
In January, Ankara indefinitely postponed a key meeting in Brussels that would have discussed the two Nordic countries’ entry into NATO.
Niinistö said that Finland and Sweden heard many encouraging statements from NATO last spring – the Nordic duo had stated their intention to join NATO in May – about smooth and painless progress of membership.