Turkey set to approve Sweden's NATO Membership after extensive delays
Turkey's parliament, where President Tayyip Erdogan's ruling coalition maintains a majority, is poised to endorse Sweden's NATO membership bid on Tuesday. This step is expected to clear the primary obstacle to the Western military alliance's expansion.
The general assembly will vote on Sweden's application, which was submitted 20 months ago following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. After parliamentary ratification, Erdogan is anticipated to sign it into law within days, leaving Hungary as the sole NATO member yet to approve Sweden's accession. Hungary has expressed that NATO membership does not seem a priority for Sweden, based on its recent actions. Although it vowed not to be the last to ratify, Hungary's parliament is in recess until mid-February.
Turkey and Hungary, both NATO members, have maintained comparatively better relations with Russia. Despite opposing Russia's Ukraine invasion, Turkey has criticized Western sanctions on Moscow and expressed concerns about NATO's potential military expansion in the Nordic countries.
The delay in Turkey's approval has led to frustration among some of Ankara's Western allies and allowed Turkey to negotiate certain concessions.
Delay in Ratification Explained
Turkey's initial objections to Sweden and Finland's NATO applications in 2022 surprised some alliance members. Ankara cited the two countries' alleged protection of groups it considers terrorists. While Finland received Turkey's endorsement last April, Sweden remained pending, with Ankara urging tougher action against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization by the EU and the US.
In response, Sweden introduced new anti-terrorism legislation and, along with Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands, took steps to relax arms-export policies towards Turkey. Erdogan, who forwarded Sweden's bid to parliament in October, has linked its ratification to the U.S. approval of F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey. Although the White House supports the sale, its timing remains uncertain due to congressional opposition related to Turkey's stance on NATO enlargement and its human rights record.
Turkey's general assembly will convene at 1200 GMT, with Sweden's bid among the first items for discussion. The parliament's foreign affairs commission, with backing from Erdogan's AK Party, nationalist allies MHP, and the main opposition CHP, approved the bid last month. However, opposition nationalist and Islamist parties opposed it. MHP leader Devlet Bahceli affirmed on Tuesday his party's continued support for Sweden's application in the upcoming vote.