Turkey Approves Sweden’s NATO Membership Bid
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has finally agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance, bringing an end to months of uncertainty and tension within the bloc. This development comes as a relief, especially considering the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Last year, both Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership, abandoning their long-standing policies of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While Finland’s NATO membership was approved in April, Sweden’s bid faced obstacles from Turkey and Hungary. However, Stockholm has been diligently working towards joining the alliance at the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
During a news conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his satisfaction, stating that President Erdogan had agreed to submit Sweden’s accession protocol to the grand national assembly as soon as possible. Stoltenberg described this as a “historic” step and emphasized the importance of cooperation between Turkey and the assembly to ensure the ratification process.
Efforts to break the deadlock included several hours of talks between Erdogan, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, and Stoltenberg on the eve of the summit. Despite Erdogan’s insistence that Sweden’s accession was contingent upon the implementation of a deal reached during last year’s alliance summit in Madrid, progress has finally been made.
Turkey has raised concerns about Sweden’s alleged insufficient actions against groups it considers terrorists, particularly members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU, and the United States.
The meeting between Erdogan and Kristersson was characterized by a relaxed atmosphere, with the Swedish Prime Minister joking about parking his plane next to the larger Turkish aircraft at Vilnius airport. Kristersson expressed his satisfaction, stating that the joint statement marked a significant step towards the final ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership.
The statement issued by both countries reaffirmed Sweden’s commitment to refrain from supporting Kurdish groups and actively support efforts to revive Turkey’s EU accession process. Erdogan, on the other hand, called on the European Union to facilitate Ankara’s accession before Sweden’s NATO membership is approved by Turkey’s parliament.
Stoltenberg stated that Erdogan had agreed to expedite the ratification process in parliament, but a specific timeline was not provided. Finland’s membership ratification took approximately two weeks in Turkey’s parliament.
With Hungary no longer blocking Sweden’s NATO membership ratification, as stated by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Turkish approval is the final hurdle for Swedish accession. All NATO members must approve applications for membership.
The United States and its allies have been exerting pressure on Turkey for months. Some NATO partners believe that Turkey has been leveraging Sweden’s membership to influence the United States regarding the purchase of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-16 fighters and modernization kits for its existing warplanes, valued at $20 billion, which Turkey requested in October 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the announcement and is scheduled to hold face-to-face talks with Erdogan during the summit. This positive development is a crucial step towards strengthening NATO and ensuring stability in the region.