Turkey approves Sweden’s NATO membership bid

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Turkish lawmakers on Tuesday formally approved Sweden’s bid to join NATO, clearing a major hurdle for the Nordic country to join the military alliance. 

Turkey’s parliament ratified Sweden’s accession protocol by 287 votes to 55, with four abstentions. The ratification will come into effect after its publication in the Official Gazette, which is expected to be swift.

turkish parliament

FILE: A general view of the Turkish parliament during the voting session on the bill regarding Sweden’s accession protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday.  (Getty Images)

Sweden’s bid was held up for more than a year as Ankara accused the country of being too lenient on groups it regards as security threats. 

Turkey has been seeking concessions from Stockholm, including a tougher stance toward Kurdish militants and members of a network that Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016.

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Turkey has also been angered by a series of demonstrations by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Sweden, as well as Quran-burning protests. 

Arguing in favor of Sweden’s membership last month, Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akcapar cited steps Sweden had taken to meet Turkish demands, including lifting restrictions on defense industry sales and amending anti-terrorism laws.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a press conference during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain. (Reuters/Yves Herman/File)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has linked ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership to the U.S. Congress’ approval of a Turkish request to purchase 40 new F-16 fighter jets and kits to modernize Turkey’s existing fleet. 

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Koray Aydin, another Good Party legislator, urged parliament to hold out on ratifying Sweden’s accession until the F-16 sales and the modernization kits are approved in Washington, saying Turkey would lose an important bargaining chip.

TURKISH PARLIAMENT

FILE: A general view of the Turkish parliament during the voting session on the bill regarding Sweden’s accession protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday.  (Metin Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Turkey’s approval follows Finland’s accession to the alliance last April, becoming NATO’s 31st member, after Turkey’s parliament ratified the Nordic country’s bid.

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Sweden and Finland had abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. 

NATO requires the unanimous approval of all existing members to expand. Hungary, which has accused Sweden of propagating “blatant lies” about the condition of its democracy, is now the only NATO ally not to have ratified Sweden’s accession. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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