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Niinistö: "Serious discussion" with Erdogan lies ahead

Finland's president says he hopes to see progress on the country's application to join Nato before the alliance's Vilnius Summit in July.

Sauli Niinistö Ylen A-Talkin haastattelussa.
Finland's President Sauli Niinistö was interviewed on Yle TV1's A-Talk current affairs programme on Thursday evening.
Yle News

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he plans to have a "serious man-to-man discussion" with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if Finland's bid to join Nato has not progressed by the time of the alliance's Vilnius Summit on 11-12 July.

Turkey and Hungary are the two remaining Nato member states yet to ratify Finland and Sweden's applications to join the alliance.

Erdogan stated earlier this week that Sweden "should not expect support from us for Nato" following the escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Speaking on Yle's A-talk current affairs programme on Thursday evening, Niinistö said that he has kept his counsel on the issue so as "not to give the impression that we are begging for something".

He also noted that Turkey's ratification of Finland's membership application is unlikely to happen until after the Turkish parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for 14 May.

"It is beginning to look very much as if the Turkish presidential elections will take precedence and not much will happen before then," Niinistö said.

The Finnish president further noted that this turn of events was "not surprising", as the Turkish opposition has criticised Erdogan for being too lax with Finland and Sweden and would seek to make further political capital if Turkey's president did not take a hard line.

Yle News' podcast All Points North asked if Finland can complete Nato accession without Sweden. Listen here.

Teija Tiilikainen, director of the Helsinki-based Hybrid Centre of Excellence, was also interviewed on A-talk and referred to the situation as a "knot" that needs to be untied not just by Finland and Sweden, but also by Nato.

She added that it would be unwise to put too much pressure on Erdoğan.

"Let's assume that the knot opens by itself. At least with this tactic, there will be no extra complications," Tiilikainen said, adding that Finland's best course of action is to simply wait until after the elections in Turkey.

Tiilikainen further noted that Erdoğan is using the situation over Finland and Sweden's Nato accession as an electoral tool.

"Apparently it seems to be working quite successfully," Tiilikainen said.

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