Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto confirms country will apply to join NATO

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto confirmed on Sunday that his country would apply for membership of the NATO military alliance, in a historic policy shift prompted by Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

Moscow, which shares a 1,300 km border with Finland, has said it would be a mistake for Helsinki to join the 30-member transatlantic alliance and that it would harm bilateral ties.

Sunday’s announcement comes after Mr Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday they both favoured NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) membership, giving a green light for the country to apply. Mr Niinisto told reporters in the Presidential palace in Helsinki that he and the government’s foreign policy committee have decided that Finland will apply for NATO membership.

Mr Niinisto called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to tell him of Finland’s plans to join the alliance. Mr Putin said such a move would hurt Russian-Finnish relations.

The Finnish President expressed readiness to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan after Ankara raised objections to the Nordic countries joining NATO. As a NATO member, Turkey could veto their applications.

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