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Finland's leaders favor NATO membership 'without delay'

Helsinki, May 13:-- Finland's leaders say they are in favor of applying for NATO membership "without delay," apparently prompted by Russia's military offensive against Ukraine.

"NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance," Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement on Thursday.

"Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days," the two leaders said.

Marin said the invasion of Ukraine had "changed everything" in terms of security for Finland.

Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, speaking at the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee around the time of the announcement, also said Russia's offensive against Ukraine had "altered European and Finnish security," but added that Finland was not facing "an immediate military threat."

The government will debate the issue over the weekend and the Finnish parliament is expected to give its final approval to the application as early as Monday.

The latest announcement signals a major shift in Finland's decades-long policy of military neutrality.
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