Decision on Sweden’s NATO bid delayed by Turkish parliament group

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The Turkish Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Thursday opened debate on Sweden’s bid to join NATO, but adjourned the proceedings until a later date without reaching a decision.

It was not immediately known when the committee would resume its discussions on Sweden’s accession protocol or when it would reach Parliament’s general assembly for the last stage of the legislative process.

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Turkey has stalled ratifying Sweden’s membership in NATO, accusing the country of being too lenient toward groups that Ankara regards as threats to its security, including Kurdish militants and members of a network that Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016.

Turkey has also been angered by a series of demonstrations by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in Sweden as well as Quran-burning protests that roiled Muslim countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his objection to Sweden’s bid during a NATO summit in July and sent the accession protocol to Parliament for ratification last month.

Turkey’s reversal of its position came after Stockholm pledged deeper cooperation with Turkey on counterterrorism and to support Turkey’s ambition to revive its EU membership bid. In addition, NATO agreed to establish a special coordinator for counterterrorism.

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.

It was not clear when the bill would reach the full assembly, where Erdogan’s ruling party and its allies command a majority.

But the Turkish Parliament speaker, Numan Kurtulmus, told his Swedish counterpart Andreas Norlen in a video conference this week that he hopes the process would be finalized “as soon as possible,” according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

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

Finland joined the alliance in April, becoming NATO’s 31st member, after Turkey’s Parliament ratified the Nordic country’s bid. Turkey’s agreement on Sweden’s membership has also been linked to Ankara’s efforts to acquire new F-16 fighter planes from the United States and to upgrade its existing fighter fleet.

However, both US and Turkish officials have insisted that any such deal would not be tied to Sweden’s NATO membership.

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