Finland considers arms exports to Turkey for NATO membership support

Finland’s defence minister Antti Kaikkonen on Thursday expressed hope that Turkey would promptly ratify his country’s NATO membership, claiming that Helsinki would consider granting arms export permits to Ankara on a case-by-case basis.

In an interview with Reuters after meeting his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar in the Turkish capital, Kaikkonen said he was unable to predict a timetable for Turkey’s ratification of Finland’s NATO membership application.

Nevertheless, a leading politician from Turkey’s ruling AK party said that the country was in “no rush” to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, and that ratification depended on when they met Ankara’s requests.

Both Nordic countries asked to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, but longtime member Turkey refused to support their request until a certain demands were met, including a tougher stance against Kurdish militants and removing a ban on arms sales.

“In the memorandum of understanding signed in Madrid, it’s written that there’s no arms embargo (on Turkey) and that is the state of play at the moment. We make decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Kaikkonen said.

Earlier this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed that Finland must lift an arms embargo on Turkey as a condition to securing the country’s support.

“There have been some discussions with Finnish industry about exports from Finland to Turkey. There are some preliminary talks. I’d say it would be possible in the near future to have some exports,” he added.

Kaikkonen also said Finland preferred to join NATO alongside Sweden, not “alone”.

“Our clear goal is to join NATO hand in hand [with Sweden], and I think it would be best for NATO as well,” he said.

In response to both country’s NATO bids, Akif Cagatay Kilic, the head of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters that it was “all up to Finland and Sweden… when they address our expectations, we will fulfil our duty of ratification. They have our word.”

NATO makes its decisions by consensus, meaning that the two Nordic nations must obtain the approval of all 30 alliance member states.

Turkey remains the only country opposing to their membership, although Hungary has also yet to ratify it.

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