STOCKHOLM, February 12. /TASS/. Finland and Sweden will participate in the NATO summit in Vilnius in July as the bloc’s members, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview with the STT news service that was published on Saturday.
"If not before Vilnius, then why [should it happen] after?" he said.
He said Finland and Sweden heard a lot of encouraging statements from NATO last spring that their accession to the alliance would be smooth, but that wasn’t so.
"I see that it’s a problem inside NATO. It’s clear that NATO members were also surprised," he said.
The president said the 28 NATO members that already ratified the accessions expressed their position clearly. But it’s ultimately up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make a final decision.
"I don’t think he will under some circumstances yield to the pressure from society. But something could happen if bilateral relations of the US and Turkey move forward" the Finnish president said.
He said the new Swedish legislation on terrorism, which comes into force in June, could convince Erdogan that Sweden complied with its commitments that were reached at the summit in Madrid.
"As for the whole issue, my position is that we act in concert with Sweden and the goal is to achieve membership for both Finland and Sweden as soon as possible," the president said.
In May 2022, Helsinki and Stockholm submitted their applications to join the US-led military bloc but the process was blocked by Turkey who demanded that the two countries designate Kurdish organizations as terrorist groups and extradite to Ankara the people suspected of terrorism and being involved in the 2016 coup. Talks between Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, then Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg took place in Madrid on June 28, 2022. As a result, a memorandum was signed making it possible for Sweden and Finland to join NATO.