Turkey parliament committee approves Sweden's NATO bid, opposition MP to AFP

AP , AFP , Tuesday 26 Dec 2023

The Turkish parliament's committee on Tuesday approved Sweden's bid to join NATO, an opposition lawmaker told AFP, clearing another hurdle for the Nordic country's accession to the US-led defence organisation.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
File Photo: Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Sweden s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, right, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on prior to a meeting ahead of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. AP


Sweden's NATO bid will come to the parliament floor, to be approved by the full assembly, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling alliance holds the majority of seats.

The foreign affairs committee resumed deliberations on Sweden’s bid to join NATO, days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan linked the Nordic country’s admission on US approval of Turkey’s request to purchase F-16 fighter jets.

NATO-member Turkey lifted its objection to Sweden joining the trans-Atlantic alliance in July but the ratification process has since stalled in parliament. 

Turkey accuses Sweden of not taking Turkey’s security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers to be security threats.

This month, Erdogan threw another obstacle by openly linking ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership to the US Congress’ approval of Turkey’s request to purchase 40 new F-16 fighter jets and kits to modernize its existing fleet. 

The Turkish leader also called on the two legislatures to act “simultaneously” and said Canada and other NATO allies must lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkey.

The White House has backed the Turkish F-16 request but there is strong opposition in Congress to military sales to Turkey.

The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee had begun discussing Sweden’s membership in NATO last month. 

The meeting however, was adjourned after legislators from Erdogan’s ruling party submitted a motion for a postponement on grounds that some issues needed more clarification and that negotiations with Sweden had not “matured” enough.

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

Finland joined the alliance in April, becoming NATO’s 31st member after Turkey’s parliament ratified the Nordic country’s bid.

NATO requires the unanimous approval of all existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries that have been holding out. Hungary has stalled Sweden’s bid, alleging that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the condition of Hungary’s democracy.

The delays have frustrated other NATO allies who were swift to accept Sweden and Finland into the alliance.

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