Finland approves military sales to Turkey amid NATO row

Finland’s defense ministry said Wednesday the country had issued the first commercial export license for military materiel to Turkey since 2019 — a key demand for Ankara to approve Helsinki’s NATO bid, Agence France-Presse reported.

Riikka Pitkanen, special adviser at the ministry, told AFP the export license concerned steel that would be used for armor.

Finland had suspended new licenses for military exports to Turkey in October 2019 due to Turkey’s military operation in Syria.

“Since October 2019, no commercial export licenses have been issued to Turkey,” Pitkanen said.

The resumption of military exports was one of the conditions set by Ankara to give the green light for the Finnish and Swedish NATO bids, which are currently stalled.

In late September, Swedish authorities lifted a ban on military exports to Turkey.

The announcement comes after Ankara on Tuesday postponed NATO accession talks with Sweden and Finland, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Stockholm for allowing protests that included the burning of the Koran outside the Turkish embassy.

The Finnish defense minister’s decision was immediately criticized by one of the parties in Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s coalition government.

“The Left Alliance does not support the export of defense materiel to countries at war or violating human rights. We believe that Finland should not grant an export license for protective steel to Turkey,” party leader Li Andersson wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile Finland’s foreign minister said Wednesday he hoped Finland and Sweden’s NATO ratification process would be completed ahead of the alliance’s Vilnius summit in July, despite a row with Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported.

Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said at a press conference in Latvia with his counterpart Edgars Rinkevics, “We are expecting that towards the Vilnius NATO summit the ratification of both Finland and Sweden could go on.”

Haavisto acknowledged the protests had caused “hiccups” in Turkey’s ratification timetable, but said the Nordic country was “working very closely with Sweden on this issue.”

“With Turkey, we don’t currently have a timetable,” he said, adding that Turkey’s elections in mid-May “might be part of the delay.”

But “we see a short time slot after the elections and before the Vilnius summit where we hope that the process of ratification could go on,” Haavisto said.

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