Erdogan submits Sweden’s NATO membership bid to parliament for ratification

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday submitted a bill approving Sweden’s NATO membership bid to parliament for ratification, his office said, a move welcomed by Stockholm as it clears the way for it to join the Western defense alliance.

Erdogan pleased his NATO allies at a summit in July by promising to send the legislation to parliament when it reopened on Oct. 1, having previously raised objections over Sweden’s alleged harboring of individuals who Turkey says are members of terrorist groups.

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Since parliament reopened, however, Turkish officials have repeatedly said Stockholm needed to take more concrete steps to clamp down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militia before Ankara could ratify its membership bid. The PKK is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States.

On Monday the bill on approving Sweden finally moved forward.

“The Protocol on Sweden’s NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 23, 2023, and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey,” the presidency said on social media platform X without elaborating.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the move and said Stockholm was looking forward to becoming a NATO member. “Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the question,” Kristersson said on X.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the decision, saying he was looking forward to a “speedy vote” in the Turkish parliament and to welcoming Sweden as an ally “very soon”.

NO SET TIMEFRAME

There is no set timeframe for ratification, however. The bill will be put on the agenda of parliament’s foreign affairs commission, which will have to pass it before it can be sent to the general assembly for ratification.

Analysts say the bill is expected to be passed in parliament once it is submitted to the general assembly, but it is unclear when Ankara will schedule the vote.

Erdogan’s AK Party, along with its nationalist and Islamist partners, holds 322 out of the 600 seats in parliament. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has previously voiced support for Sweden’s membership.

“Actually, if it would be tabled it would pass,” said Sinan Ulgen, former diplomat, and director of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies.

“Unless Erdogan takes a negative stance which would impact the AKP vote. Now it is more of a question of when parliament would decide to schedule the vote. Can be quick or maybe not,” Ulgen said on X, adding “the decision rests with 1 man”.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland’s membership was sealed in April, in a historic expansion of the alliance, but Sweden’s bid had been held up by Turkey and Hungary.

Turkey, which has NATO’s second-biggest army, has long been seeking US congressional approval for a $20 billion sale of F-16 jets and modernization kits. Erdogan has previously linked Sweden’s NATO bid to US support for its request.

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