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Turkey to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday submitted a bill approving Sweden’s bid to join NATO to parliament for ratification.

Back in July at the NATO summit, Erdogan promised to send the bill to parliament on 1 October. Earlier, he made a statement that Sweden was harbouring members of terrorist groups.

Since parliament resumed in October, Turkish officials have repeatedly said Stockholm must do more to crack down on the country’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) before Ankara can ratify its NATO membership bid. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey, the US and the EU.

On Monday, the issue of Sweden joining NATO finally came under scrutiny. The presidency said on social media platform X:

The Protocol on Sweden’s NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the move. Kristersson said on X.

Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the question.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed hope for an “early vote” in the Turkish parliament and that Sweden will become a full member of the alliance “very soon”. In a note to NATO members at the next foreign ministers’ meeting on 28 and 29 November, Stoltenberg touched on the possibility of Sweden joining the alliance. However, Hungary’s parliament would still have to ratify its application to NATO before Sweden would become a member of the alliance. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told Swedish news agency TT:

Hungary has said several times it does not want to be last in this process. Now that the ratification process has started in Ankara, we assume that the same will happen soon in Budapest.

Washington has also welcomed Turkey’s move. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that the USA expected the bill to be passed in the Turkish parliament as soon as possible.

Turkey, the country with the second-largest army in NATO, has long been in discussions with the US Congress to sell $20bn worth of F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits. Erdogan has previously linked Sweden’s bid to join NATO to US support for its request. However, Turkey has not set a timeline for ratification of the application. The bill will be placed on the agenda of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, which will have to pass it before it can be sent to the General Assembly for ratification.

Analysts expect the bill to be passed by parliament after it is submitted to the general assembly. However, the date of the vote is still unknown. Erdogan’s AK Party, along with its nationalist and Islamist counterparts, holds 322 of the 600 seats in parliament. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has previously expressed support for Sweden’s accession to NATO. Sinan Ulgen, former diplomat and director of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies, said:

Actually if it were tabled it would pass. Unless Erdogan takes a negative stance, which would impact the AKP vote. Now it is more of a question of when parliament would decide to schedule the vote. Can be quick or maybe not,” Ulgen said on X, adding “the decision rests with 1 man”.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Finland’s NATO application was approved in April, marking a historic expansion of the alliance, while Turkey and Hungary rejected Sweden’s application.

Erdogan accused Stockholm of being too soft on the PKK and other groups that his country sees as a security threat. Turkey also expressed outrage at a series of protests against the burning of the Koran in Sweden. Turkey’s foreign ministry called the events a “disgusting attack” and called for “decisive measures to prevent this hate crime” in a statement.

In July, Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected Turkey’s request to extradite two men accused of belonging to the movement of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed coup attempt in 2016.

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