Finnish President Niinisto tells Putin the country will apply to join NATO

Finland’s president has told Vladimir Putin that the Nordic country plans to apply to join NATO, as a top Turkish aide played down concerns that Ankara could scuttle its bid.

Sauli Niinistö called Putin on Saturday to explain how Russia’s request for Finland and Sweden not to apply for NATO membership in late 2021, followed by its invasion of Ukraine in February, has fundamentally changed the security environment.

“The conversation was direct and direct, and there was no provocation. It was considered important to avoid tension,” Niinisto said.

Putin responded that it was wrong for Finland to abandon its neutrality and that seeking to join a Western defense alliance would damage relations between the two countries.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a surge in public support for joining NATO in Finland and Sweden, forcing an emergency security review by politicians.

The Finnish government will decide on its application to join NATO on Sunday and issue a formal application sometime after parliamentary discussions next week.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats will make a decision on Sunday, and everything points to an application to join, with the government likely to make a decision on Monday.

Joint applications can be sent on Tuesday or Wednesday when Niinistö is on a state visit to Stockholm.

The first little question in the application process came on friday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to the “Scandinavian country” as “some kind of hostel for terrorist groups” and spoke of potential applications for which Ankara cannot “see this positively.”

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters on Saturday that it was seeking talks with Sweden and other countries over its concerns and that it “will not close” their bid for membership.

Sweden in particular needs to take action against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed militia group that has launched a campaign, Kalin said. decades-long armed rebellion Opposes the Turkish government and is listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. Sweden has a large Kurdish minority.

“What needs to be done is clear: they must stop allowing PKK outlets, events, organisations, individuals and other types of presence . . . to exist in these countries,” Kalin said.

Niinistö told state broadcaster Yle: “I wouldn’t speculate at all that this means Turkey will be throwing a wrench in forever. So far, Turkey has given us the exact opposite message.”

“It’s definitely going to spark discussion because the U.S. seems to have responded,” he said.

NATO foreign ministers will meet in Berlin this weekend, and the United States said late Friday it would seek “clarification” of Turkey’s position.

Niinisto spoke to Joe Biden on Friday alongside Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson. “I went through the next step for Finland to join NATO. Finland is very grateful for all the necessary support from the United States,” the Finnish president said after the conference call.

In a call with Putin, Niinistö said Finland was maximizing its security. “By joining NATO, Finland strengthens its own security and assumes its own responsibilities. It is not far from anyone else. Also in the future, Finland wants to deal with the real problems that arise as a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional way,” said the Finnish President Office said.

Any application in Finland and Sweden needs to be approved by all 30 countries, a process that can take 6 to 12 months. Swedish and Finnish officials said Friday that their engagement with the Turkish minister and other officials has so far been positive.

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