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Finland's Nato prospects looking brighter, president says

Just ahead of a Nato summit in Madrid, a delegation of US senators aimed to show their support for Finland and Sweden joining the alliance, despite pushback from Turkey.

Presidentti Niinistö tapaa yhdysvaltalaisia senaattoreita
Presidentti Niinistö tapaa yhdysvaltalaisia senaattoreita

Finland's advancement to Nato membership, hampered due to demands made by Turkey, looks a little brighter, according to Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

The president said the positive assessment was based on several discussions he has held with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Niinistö made the comments on Monday, following a meeting with a delegation of US senators, before he is scheduled to meet Erdoğan the next day.

Tuesday's meeting — held in conjunction with a Nato summit in Madrid — will also include Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who will take part in negotiating the countries' pending memberships in the military alliance.

The Nordic countries formally handed in their respective applications to join Nato on 18 May.

However, the road to membership — which requires the unanimous approval of all 30 countries in the alliance — came to a standstill after Erdoğan accused the nations of "protecting terrorists," issuing a list of demands that must be met before talks can proceed.

On Monday, visiting US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat and co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, told reporters in Helsinki that she wanted to show the United States' "very strong" support for Finland's accession to Nato.

"We think that's important not just for Finland and Nato, but for the United States, because you bring capacity and capabilities that are very important to Nato," Shaheen told a press briefing at Mäntyniemi, the president's official residence in Helsinki.

Crucial support

"I was happy to be able to lead a letter, with a Republican colleague, [signed by] 82 senators to support the accession. It is our hope that after the summit in Madrid we will be able to act on that application very quickly in the United States Senate and see that happen in all of the Nato countries," Shaheen said.

"Particularly now, as we look at Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine, it's very important for us to show unity and to have the capacity to be able to show [Russian President] Putin that he's got to be held accountable for that," she said.

Niinistö said that the US has shown consistent support for Finland's membership in Nato.

"The support has been very crucial," he said, noting that support for joining Nato among Finnish MPs is very high across various political parties. He pointed out the joint letter signed by 82 senators, which Shaheen referenced, showed similar unified political support in the United States.

"Hopefully, in Madrid we will face the same atmosphere and spirit that we had during [today's] discussions — understand how important it is to guarantee peace and peaceful life for all citizens in every country. Including Finland and Sweden increasing their security by joining Nato," Niinistö said.

Apart from Shaheen, the US delegation included Democrat Senator for Delaware Chris Coons, Republican Senator for Iowa Joni Ernst, Republican Senator for Nebraska Deb Fischer and Republican Senator for Missouri Roy Blunt.