Turkish President Erdogan Submits Sweden’s NATO Bid To Parliament For Ratification

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, shakes hands with Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, in July at a Nato summit meeting in Vilnius. Photograph: Filip Singer/EPA

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday submitted a bill approving Sweden’s NATO membership bid to parliament for ratification, his office said, a move welcomed by Stockholm as it clears the way for it to join the Western defence alliance.

Erdogan pleased his NATO allies at a summit in July by promising to send the legislation to parliament when it reopened on Oct. 1, having previously raised objections over Sweden’s alleged harbouring of individuals who Turkey says are members of terrorist groups.

Since parliament reopened, however, Turkish officials have repeatedly said Stockholm needed to take more concrete steps to clamp down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militia before Ankara could ratify its membership bid. The PKK is deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

On Monday the bill on approving Sweden finally moved forward.

“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,” the presidency said on social media platform X without elaborating.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the move. “Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the question,” Kristersson said on X.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was looking forward to a “speedy vote” in the Turkish parliament and to welcoming Sweden as an ally “very soon”.

In a note to NATO members on their next foreign ministers’ meeting on Nov. 28 and 29, Stoltenberg raised the prospect that Sweden could join the alliance at the meeting, according to a European diplomat.

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Hungary’s parliament will also have to ratify Sweden’s NATO application before it can become a member.

“Hungary has said several times it does not want to be last in this process,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told Swedish news agency TT.

“Now that the ratification process has started in Ankara, we assume that the same will happen soon in Budapest.”

The United States also welcomed Turkey’s move, with State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller saying the U.S. looked forward to the bill passing in the Turkish parliament as soon as possible.

Turkey, which has NATO’s second-biggest army, has long been seeking U.S. congressional approval for a $20 billion sale of F-16 jets and modernisation kits. Erdogan has previously linked Sweden’s NATO bid to U.S. support for its request.

Turkey, however, has not set a timeframe for ratification. The bill will be put on the agenda of parliament’s foreign affairs commission, which will have to pass it before it can be sent to the general assembly for ratification.

Analysts say the bill is expected to be passed in parliament once it is submitted to the general assembly, but it is unclear when Ankara will schedule the vote.

Erdogan’s AK Party, along with its nationalist and Islamist partners, holds 322 out of the 600 seats in parliament. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has previously voiced support for Sweden’s membership.

“Actually if it would be tabled it would pass,” said Sinan Ulgen, former diplomat and director of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies.

“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 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland’s membership was sealed in April, in a historic expansion of the alliance, but Sweden’s bid had been held up by Turkey and Hungary.

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