The request, made by the Swedes three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, had been met with resistance from Turkey’s president, who accused the European country of insufficient efforts against what he considers “terrorism”.
(DW) The request, made by the Swedes three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, had been met with resistance from Turkey’s president, who accused the European country of insufficient efforts against what he considers “terrorism”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented Sweden’s application to join NATO to the Turkish parliament in Ankara for ratification on Monday (23/10). Erdogan signed the protocol and forwarded it to the National Assembly, according to information released by the presidential office.
Approval is considered likely, since the conservative AKP party alliance, led by Erdogan, has a parliamentary majority. The move has been welcomed by Stockholm, as it paves the way for Sweden to join the Western military alliance.
For months, Turkey, like Hungary, has blocked Sweden from joining NATO, which only welcomes new member countries after approval by all the group’s members.
The blockade was justified by the Turks because of the Swedes’ “insufficient efforts” against what they classify as “terrorism”. Turkey accuses Sweden of harboring terrorist groups, including Kurdish militants considered illegal by Ankara, and for this reason had not yet given the go-ahead for the country to join the Atlantic alliance.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO member states that have yet to ratify Sweden’s proposal.
Ending two centuries of neutrality and military non-alignment, Sweden and Finland announced proposals to join NATO in May 2022, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine.
While Sweden’s application is still in progress, Finland succeeded in becoming NATO’s 31st member on April 4 this year.
Sweden celebrates, but no deadline
Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the news and said that Stockholm hopes to become a member of NATO as soon as possible: “Now it’s up to Parliament to deal with the issue,” Kristersson wrote on the X platform, formerly Twitter.
However, there is no set deadline for ratification. The bill will be put on the agenda of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, which will have to approve it before it can be sent to the General Assembly for ratification.
Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, has long sought approval from the US Congress for a $20 billion sale of F-16 jets and modernization kits to Turkey. Erdogan had already linked Sweden’s bid to join NATO to American support.
Promise made in July
The change of course on the Swedish issue came in July this year. At the time, during a summit, Erdogan promised to submit the membership application as soon as parliament reopened on October 1.
Since Parliament reopened, however, Turkish authorities have insisted that Stockholm take more concrete measures to crack down on what Ankara considers a banned militia, with members linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The party is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union (EU) and the United States.
“The Protocol on Sweden’s Accession to NATO was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 23, 2023 and forwarded to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey,” the presidential office wrote on the X platform.