German foreign minister urges Turkey and Hungary to speed up approval of Nordic nations’ NATO bids

Inke Kappeler and Lauren Kent

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Monday called on Turkey and Hungary to quickly ratify Finland and Sweden’s bids to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“I made it clear over recent months with regard to all NATO members, especially the two who haven’t ratified yet, that it is not only in the spirit of an alliance to ratify swiftly, but also that it will make us stronger as an alliance,“ Baerbock said during a joint news conference with her Finnish counterpart in Helsinki.

The two Nordic countries announced their intention to join NATO in May 2022, ending decades of neutrality after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a sudden shift in attitudes toward joining the bloc.

All 30 NATO member states must ratify their bids to join the bloc; however, Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve them.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he hopes both Finland and Sweden can become NATO members by the middle of the summer, adding “the conflict is not far away from us.”

Haavisto said he hoped fulfilling “all those conditions that were set by Turkey” would lead “to a very rapid ratification process.”

Some context: Turkey-Sweden relations suffered a major blow in late January after a rally outside the Turkish Embassy in Helsinki at which an anti-immigration politician set a copy of the Quran alight. The incident sparked anger in Turkey, where protesters burned the Swedish flag outside the Swedish Embassy in response.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously said he has a positive view on Finland’s entry to NATO, but not on Sweden’s “as long as it permits attacks on Islam’s holy book Quran,” according to state news agency Anadolu. Turkey has also said Sweden must take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

CNN’s Jack Guy and Niamh Kennedy contributed reporting to this post.

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