Turkey Endorses Sweden’s NATO Membership Proposal Following 20 Months’ Pause

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Turkey Approves Sweden’s NATO Membership Bid

In a significant development in international politics, Reader Wall reports that Sweden’s NATO membership bid was approved by the Turkish parliament. This marks the elimination of one of the biggest hurdles in the expansion of the Western military alliance, a process that had been delayed for over 20 months.

Details of the Approval

The General Assembly in Turkey, where President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling alliance holds majority control, voted 287-55 in favor of Sweden’s application. This application was first made by Sweden back in 2022 as a measure to strengthen its security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Interestingly, Turkey had raised objections when Sweden and Finland sought to join NATO that year. According to Turkish authorities, both nations were providing protection to groups Turkey labeled as terrorists, causing some controversy among NATO members. Eventually, Turkey endorsed Finland’s membership bid in April the following year, but alongside Hungary, kept Sweden on hold.

Turkey’s Stand on NATO Enlargement

“We support NATO enlargement to improve the alliance’s deterrence efforts… We hope Finland and Sweden’s attitude towards fighting terrorism sets an example for our other allies,” stated Fuat Oktay, who heads parliament’s foreign affairs commission and is a member of the ruling AK Party.

Further Approval Needed

Next, the legislation awaits President Erdogan’s signature to become law. Meanwhile, Hungary – whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban maintains friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin – remains the last member state yet to approve Sweden’s bid for accession.

Relations with Russia

Both Turkey and Hungary have better relations with Russia than most other NATO member states. While strongly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey has voiced criticism over Western-imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Impact of Sweden’s Membership

Sweden’s becoming a NATO member marks a significant shift from its usual non-aligned security policy and will bolster the alliance’s defences in the Baltic Sea region against Russia.

Turkey’s Demands and Concessions

Throughout this process, Turkey’s reluctance has drawn the ire of many of its Western allies. Nonetheless, it has also allowed Turkey to extract concessions from Sweden. This includes urging upon Sweden to adopt a tougher stance towards local members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group universally recognized as terrorist organization, resulting in Sweden implementing a new anti-terrorism law that makes membership of an extremist organization illegal.

Opposition and Support in Turkish Parliament

Despite some opposition, the support for Sweden’s NATO bid was widespread, with Erdogan’s AK Party, the AKP’s nationalist allies MHP, and the main opposition CHP endorsing Sweden’s proposal.

US Impact on Decision

In an astute political move, Erdogan linked the ratification to the U.S. approval of sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. The White House has expressed support for this sale, but a final agreement pending Turkish approval of Sweden’s NATO bid could be postponed due to Turkish human rights concerns and delays to NATO enlargement.


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