Finland and Sweden have formally applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Finland's ambassador to Nato Klaus Korhonen and his Swedish counterpart Axel Wernhoff delivered the two application letters together to Nato headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday morning.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described the simultaneous submitting of the applications as a "historic moment" in European security and politics.
"I warmly welcome requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato. You are our closest partners, and your membership in NATO will increase our shared security," Stoltenberg said during a short ceremony.
Now that the applications have been received, the alliance's 30 current Nato member states must decide whether to invite the two Nordic nations for accession talks.
Although the majority of Nato nations have already expressed their support for Finnish and Swedish accession, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that his country was not in favour of the Nordic countries joining Nato, citing concerns about the presence of "terrorists" in both countries.
"We are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions," Stoltenberg said at Wednesday morning's press briefing.
Turkey blocks accession talks
Later on Wednesday, the Financial Times reported (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that Turkey had blocked Nato’s initial decision to process requests by Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance.
Nato ambassadors met on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Finland and Sweden had submitted their applications, with the aim of beginning accession negotiations. However, FT reported, Turkey prevented any vote from going ahead.
In a speech to Parliament on Wednesday, Erdoğan once again referred to Finland and Sweden siding with "terrorist organisations".
"You won't hand over terrorists but you want to join Nato. We cannot say yes to a security organisation that is devoid of security," he said.
According to Yle's information, Turkish authorities have requested that Finland extradite several people to Turkey over the past five years, including six members of the Gülen movement and six members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Most of these people have sought asylum in Finland in recent years, Yle understands.
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