Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday authorised Sweden’s NATO membership, thereby clearing the biggest hurdle in expanding the Western Military Alliance after a long delay of 20 months.
The Bill was cleared on Tuesday by the Turkish parliament after 4 hours of debate, the Reuters reported.
Sweden’s NATO membership was ratified by 287 votes to 55 in Turkey’s general assembly, where the country’s President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling alliance holds a majority.
The Scandinavian nation applied for NATO membership back in 2022 in an accession process the country started with its neighbour Finland to bolster its security amid Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey had initially raised objections to both countries’ bids, citing reasons that the two of them protected groups deemed terrorists by Ankara. It later endorsed Finland to become the 31st NATO member last year in April, but kept Sweden waiting.
This delayed Sweden’s request, as it is imperative for all NATO members to approve applications from countries seeking to join the alliance.
The head of parliament’s foreign affairs commission and a member of the ruling AK Party, Fuat Oktay remarked that the country supports NATO enlargement to improve the deterrence efforts of the alliance. He also said that they hope Sweden and Finland’s attitude towards fighting against terrorism sets an example for other allies, the Reuters reported.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that Turkey’s vote has brought the country a step closer to joining the alliance, Al Jazeera reported. While sharing the news on his X handle he said, “Positive that the Grand General Assembly of Turkiye has voted in favour of Sweden’s NATO accession.”
After Turkey’s approval, only Hungary remains the last holdout in Sweden and Finland’s accession process, which began two years ago.
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, who reportedly maintains friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, invited the Swedish Prime Minister for a visit to his country to negotiate on the latter’s NATO accession. “Today I sent an invitation to Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson @SwedishPM for a visit to Hungary to negotiate on Sweden’s NATO accession,” he posted on his X account.
Welcoming the Turkish Parliament’s approval, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstorm said in a written statement,”We now look forward to President Erdogan signing the ratification document,” Reuters reported.
NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg appreciated Turkey’s move and said that he now counts on Hungary to complete its national ratification at the earliest.
During the 20-months delay, Ankara urged Stockholm to tighten its noose on the local members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has also been classified as a terrorist group by the US and European Union. Stockholm, in response to this, introduced a new anti-terrorism bill that criminalised being a member of a terrorist group. Additionally, Sweden, along with Canada and Finland, exercised measures to relax policies on arms exports to Turkey, Reuters reported.
Erdogan had submitted a bill on Sweden’s NATO bid to the Turkish parliament in October. The Bill was approved by the country’s foreign affairs committee last month. Although the decision has frustrated some Western allies of Ankara, the Turkish President is expected to sign the bill into law in a few days, Al Jazeera reported.