Turkey ratifies Sweden’s NATO bid after long delay

Turkey’s parliament approved Sweden’s NATO membership on Tuesday, marking the longest wait for any applicant country to join the Western military alliance.

Sweden’s NATO membership bid got the green light from Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday, removing the biggest obstacle to the Western military alliance’s expansion after nearly two years of delay.

Turkey’s general assembly, where President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling coalition has a majority, voted 287-55 to ratify the application that Sweden submitted in 2022 to strengthen its security amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

All NATO members have to ratify applications from countries that want to join the alliance. Turkey had objected to Sweden and Finland’s requests to join in 2022, claiming that the two countries were protecting groups that Turkey considers terrorists.

Turkey approved Finland’s membership in April last year, but along with Hungary, it had left Sweden hanging.

“We back NATO enlargement to boost the alliance’s deterrence capabilities… We hope that Finland and Sweden’s approach to combating terrorism will inspire our other allies,” Fuat Oktay, the chair of parliament’s foreign affairs committee and an AK Party member, said during the discussion.

“I am very grateful for the Turkish Parliament’s decision to ratify Sweden’s NATO accession today,” U.S. Ambassador Jeff Flake said in a written statement on Tuesday.

He said Turkey’s “dedication to the NATO Alliance clearly shows our lasting partnership.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom also expressed his gratitude for the Turkish parliament’s ratification. “We are eager to see President Erdogan sign the ratification document,” Billstrom said in a written statement.

Erdogan is expected to sign the law within days, leaving Hungary – whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin – as the only member state that has not ratified Sweden’s membership.

Orban said earlier on Tuesday that he had invited his Swedish counterpart to come and discuss his country’s accession to the bloc. Hungary’s parliament is on break until around mid-February.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the Turkish move and said: “I also urge Hungary to finish its national ratification as soon as possible.”

Turkey and Hungary have better relations with Russia than other members of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Turkey has opposed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it has also criticised Western sanctions on Moscow. Russia, on the other hand, has warned that it would react if NATO increased its military presence in the two Nordic countries.

Sweden, whose membership request signalled a historic departure from a non-aligned security policy, would improve NATO’s defences in the Baltic Sea area facing Russia.

Turkey’s delays had annoyed some of its Western allies and allowed it to gain some concessions.

Ankara had asked Stockholm to be more strict on local members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the European Union and United States also label a terrorist group.

In response, Stockholm passed a new anti-terrorism law that makes belonging to a terrorist organisation illegal. Sweden, Finland, Canada and the Netherlands also made some changes to ease their restrictions on arms exports to Turkey.

In parliament, Oktay said Erdogan’s AK Party supported Sweden’s NATO bid after its positive steps in fighting terrorism.

The AKP’s nationalist partners MHP and the main opposition CHP also backed Sweden’s bid. Opposition nationalist, Islamist and leftist parties opposed it, while four MPs abstained.

Erdogan, who had sent Sweden’s bid to parliament in October, linked the ratification to U.S. approval of sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

The White House supports the sale and some analysts expect a deal to quickly follow Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s bid. But there is no definite timeline for the U.S. Congress to approve the deal.

Share this news
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments