Turkey’s parliament swiftly approved Sweden’s NATO membership bid on Tuesday, overcoming a 20-month delay and eliminating a significant obstacle to the alliance’s expansion. With a resounding vote of 287-55 in the general assembly, dominated by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling alliance, Sweden’s application received the necessary nod for bolstering its security amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
All NATO member nations must endorse applications from aspiring countries, and Turkey’s objections, initially raised alongside Hungary, centered on concerns about Sweden and Finland allegedly harboring groups classified as terrorists. While Finland’s membership was endorsed in April last year, Turkey kept Sweden waiting until this recent parliamentary vote.
Fuat Oktay, head of the parliamentary foreign affairs commission and a member of the ruling AK Party, expressed support for NATO enlargement during the debate, emphasizing the hope that Finland and Sweden’s approach to combating terrorism would set an example for other allies.
U.S. Ambassador Jeff Flake applauded Turkey’s decision, highlighting the country’s commitment to the NATO Alliance. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom also welcomed the approval, expressing anticipation for President Erdogan’s swift ratification.
With Hungary being the sole remaining member state yet to approve Sweden’s accession, Prime Minister Viktor Orban extended an invitation for negotiations on joining the alliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Hungary to complete its national ratification promptly.
Turkey’s delays, seen as frustrating to Western allies, led to certain concessions, including calls for Sweden to take a tougher stance on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In response, Stockholm introduced anti-terrorism legislation and, along with other NATO allies, adjusted policies on arms exports to Turkey.
Erdogan, linking Sweden’s NATO ratification to U.S. approval for F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey, awaits the subsequent steps in the process. Analysts anticipate a swift deal following Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s bid, although a clear timeframe for U.S. Congress approval remains uncertain.