Turkey's parliament has given its approval to the NATO membership application filed by Estonia's neighbor to the North, Finland, after a late night vote in Ankara Thursday, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reports.
The vote was cast shortly before midnight, and the ratification passed by 276 votes to zero, at the 600-seat legislature, Yle reports on its English-language page.
NATO's own website states that: "Once allies have ratified the Accession Protocols according to their national procedures, Finland and Sweden will be invited to accede to the Washington Treaty, officially becoming NATO allies."
NATO officials and many politicians have said they hoped that not only Finland, but also Sweden, will be able to join the alliance officially, ahead of the Vilnius summit in July, and over a year after both countries filed their applications.
Unanimity is required to join and while Estonia ratified Finland and Sweden's applications in July last year, Turkey and Hungary held-out until now with Finland (Hungary has also recently voted in favor of Finnish membership).
The issue is ongoing with Sweden, partly in relation to concerns over the harboring of terrorists, in the case of Turkey, and, it is thought, as a bargaining chip in relation to funding from a completely different supra-national organization, the EU, in the case of Hungary.
In Turkey, MPs from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist ally the MHP, along with most opposition MPs. were expected to vote in favor of Finland's joining Thursday evening
Now, President Erdogan has 14 days to sign the corresponding bill, after which Finland's application then goes to Washington for the final signatures.
Finland's President, Sauli Niinistö, hailed the development, tweeting that "All 30 NATO members have now ratified Finland's membership," thanking those members, stating that Finland will prove a "strong and capable ally, committed to the security of the alliance," and expressing hope that Sweden's ratification will follow soon.
The accession of both countries would end decades, or in the case of Sweden, centuries, of nominal neutrality on defense issues and would mean that all Nordic countries (Iceland, Denmark and Norway are existing NATO members) had joined the bloc, and that the alliance's northeastern frontier has the "gap" between the Norway-Finland border in the north, and the Gulf of Finland, which separates Finland and NATO member Estonia by just 70km at its narrowest point and which is bisected by the Estonian-Finnish maritime border, to the South.
Officials from both countries have been attending NATO meetings since the accession protocols were signed last year, while in practice, both states had been cooperating with NATO for many years – in Finland's case, by joining Nato's Partnership for Peace in 1994, and its Enhanced Opportunities Program in 2004.
Editor: Andrew Whyte