U.S. could ratify Finnish NATO membership before August, Senate Republican leader says

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell answer questions from the media after a meeting at the President's official residence Mantyniemi, in Helsinki, Finland, May 16, 2022. Lehtikuva/Roni Rekomaa via REUTERS

HELSINKI, May 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress will seek to ratify Finland's application to join the Western military alliance NATO before going on holiday in August, U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in Helsinki after meeting with Finland's President Sauli Niinisto.

Canada, NATO's other North American ally, also promised a quick ratification.

"Certainly we hope to achieve it before the August recess when Congress typically goes out of session," McConnell told reporters on Monday.

Niinisto confirmed on Sunday that Finland would apply for NATO membership, in a historic policy shift prompted by Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.Sweden is also planning to join.

McConnell said there was broad bipartisan support among U.S. lawmakers for Finnish membership.

"With regard to the size of the vote, it will be very significant. Not unanimous, but very significant," he said.

McConnell stressed the Republican Party's commitment to continued U.S. participation in the military alliance.

"Absolutely, that's not the majority view in the Republican Party, certainly not the majority view among Senate Republicans or House Republicans," he said when asked about former U.S. President Donald Trump's view on pulling his country out of NATO.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Monday that Canada was also in favor of a rapid NATO accession of Finland and Sweden.

"Our goal is to be amongst the first countries to be able to ratify the accession of Sweden and Finland," Joly told reporters as she arrived for a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels. She said it would only take days for Canada to ratify the accession.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen, additional reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout in Brussels; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Nick Macfie

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