Sweden's NATO membership bid gets Turkey's approval

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a press conference during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain June 30, 2022. — Reuters
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a press conference during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain June 30, 2022. — Reuters
  • Turkey previously objected to Sweden's membership.
  • Move to strengthen Turkey's security after Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • Hungary only member state not to approve Sweden's accession.

Turkey's parliament has taken a significant step towards expanding the Western military alliance by ratifying Sweden's North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership bid.

The vote, which was 287-55, marks the end of Sweden's 20-month-long struggle to gain approval from all NATO members. The move is expected to strengthen Turkey's security following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

This is a significant victory for President Erdogan's ruling alliance, and it paves the way for Sweden to join the alliance.

However, Turkey had previously objected to Sweden and Finland's 2022 membership due to their protection of groups it deems terrorists. Later, Turkey endorsed Finland's membership in April, but along with Hungary, kept Sweden waiting.

"We support NATO enlargement to improve the alliance's deterrence efforts... We hope Finland and Sweden's attitude towards fighting terrorism sets an example for our other allies," Fuat Oktay, head of parliament's foreign affairs commission and a ruling AK Party member, said during the debate.

"I greatly appreciate the Turkish Parliament's decision to approve Sweden's entry into NATO today," United States Ambassador Jeff Flake said in a written statement on Tuesday.

He said Turkey's "commitment to the NATO Alliance clearly demonstrates our enduring partnership."

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom also welcomed the Turkish parliament's approval in a written statement: "We now look forward to President Erdogan signing the ratification document.”

Erdogan is expected to sign the legislation on Sweden's accession in the next few days, leaving Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the only member state not to approve Sweden's accession, Reuters reported.

Orban invited Sweden's counterpart to visit and negotiate the bloc's membership. However, Hungary's parliament is in recess until around mid-February.

Turkey and Hungary have stronger relations with Russia than other NATO members. However, opposing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Turkey criticised Western sanctions on Moscow.

Russia warns of potential response to NATO's military infrastructure strengthening in the Nordic states.

Sweden, whose membership bid marked a historic shift away from a non-aligned security policy, would enhance NATO defences in the Baltic Sea region facing Russia.