President Sauli Niinistö talked to the press in Helsinki on 27 June 2022. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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PRESIDENT Sauli Niinistö told Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday that it was clear from the start that the discussions between Finland, Sweden and Turkey would not and should not extend beyond the question of whether Turkey will support inviting Finland and Sweden to join Nato.

“This whole document was designed for that purpose. The document’s 10th article states that the invitation would be supported and the accession protocol would be signed,” he explained.

“We have to take one step at a time, that’s the sort of situation we’re in,” he added. “The ratification is another question or another operation.”

Finland, Sweden and Turkey on Tuesday signed a trilateral memorandum following almost four hours of talks held in conjunction with the Nato summit in Madrid, Spain. Turkey committed under article 10 of the memorandum to confirming its “long-standing support for Nato’s open-door policy”  and to supporting at the summit “the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of Nato”.

Nato extended a formal invitation to Finland and Sweden on Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, though, threatened yesterday to stall the accession process again unless the two countries fulfilled “the promises they made” in the memorandum. Finland and Sweden, he estimated, should revise their laws on terrorism and do so quickly to facilitate the ratification process in Turkey.

Turkey intends to monitor how the promises are fulfilled.

The memorandum states that the three countries will establish a joint structured dialogue and co-operation mechanism consisting of experts from their foreign and interior ministries, as well as intelligence and security agencies. Niinistö was reluctant to describe the mechanism as a monitoring tool.

“We’re establishing this kind of a structured mechanism for dialogue and co-operation. It’s about making it possible to communicate closely,” he said to Helsingin Sanomat.

He also declined to comment on the aggressive stance adopted by Erdoğan. “Let’s just say that our fundamental starting point is that we’re prepared for all sorts of things. Just like we saw in the spring.”

The ambiguous nature of the trilateral memorandum immediately stirred up concerns among legal and international relations experts about the possibility of differing interpretations. Outi Korhonen, a professor of international law at the University of Turku, told YLE on Thursday that the memorandum has a number of problems.

“Things where an agreement couldn’t be reached were articulated vaguely and ambiguously,” she viewed.

“This is bargaining with human rights statements. It feels alien in the Nordic human rights culture. Turkey feels that we aren’t as strict as we used to be about extradition requests or our interpretations of human and fundamental rights.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT