Finland to consider arms sales to Turkey

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Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said his country would consider granting arms export permits to Turkey on a case by case basis, amid discussions with Ankara for its NATO membership.

“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 told Reuters in an interview after meeting with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar in Ankara on Thursday.

“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,” Kaikkonen said.

Finland and Sweden that have a long history of neutrality in military conflicts, officially applied for NATO membership, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ankara opposed the two countries’ bids, citing Stockholm and Helsinki’s “failure” to combat threats to Turkey’s security and the arms embargo on Turkey.

After Sweden and Finland promised to address Ankara’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects, Turkey dropped its objections against their membership applications, allowing the military organization to formally invite the two countries for joining the alliance at a Madrid summit in June.

On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Finland should lift an arms embargo on Ankara as a condition to secure Turkey’s support for its joining NATO.

Sweden in September has lifted the embargo on Turkey that was imposed in 2019 in the aftermath of Ankara’s military operation into Northern Syria, targeting Kurdish militants. Finland also announced the imposition of the blockade in 2019 but not followed suit.

Kaikkonen also told Reuters that the sooner Turkey ratifies its NATO membership bid, the better.

However, in a separate interview with Reuters, Akif Cagatay Kilic, the head of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and a senior member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said Ankara is in “no rush” to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO accessions.

“It’s all up to Finland and Sweden… when they address our expectations, we will fulfil our duty of ratification. They have our word,” Kilic said.

“We expect them to keep their promises. When that happens, our government will submit the ratifications to the Parliament, and we will complete our part swiftly,” Kilic told Reuters.

Kaikkonen also said that they prefer to join the military alliance together with 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.

The final approval of the two Scandinavian countries’ NATO bids depends on the current member states’ parliaments. The NATO accession protocols for Sweden and Finland need to be ratified by the parliaments of all 30 members, where Ankara says it will not approve the documents if Stockholm and Helsinki fail to fulfil their commitments.

Twenty-eight of 30 NATO member states by now have given the necessary official approval for Sweden and Finland’s joining the transatlantic alliance. Turkey and Hungary remain on the list that have not yet ratified the accession protocols.

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