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Erdogan drops opposition to Sweden's NATO bid: Stoltenberg

July 10, 2023

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to forward to parliament Sweden's bid to join the NATO military alliance, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg watches on
Erdogan greed to submit Sweden's NATO membership bid for ratification to the Turkish parliament as soon as possibleImage: Henrik Montgomery/ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Monday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to forward Sweden's bid to join the military alliance to the Turkish parliament.

Stoltenberg made the announcement after talks with Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the eve of a NATO summit in Lithuania.

"This is a historic day," Stoltenberg said.

A joint statement released by the three leaders does not specify a timeline for the Turkish parliament to approve Sweden's application.

"We take a very big step towards the formal ratification of Sweden's membership in NATO. It has been a good day for Sweden," Kristersson said. 

Surprise announcement 

Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, abandoned its longstanding military neutrality and applied for NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

But Stockholm's entry into the military alliance had been blocked by two members, Turkey and Hungary.

Earlier on Monday, Erdogan added to the list of demands he wanted fulfilled in exchange for finally backing Sweden's accession to NATO.

Speaking just hours before meeting Kristersson, Erdogan suggested if the European Union wanted Sweden in NATO, it should let Turkey into the EU.

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Membership talks between the bloc and Ankara began in 2005 but were put on hold indefinitely in 2016 after years of democratic backsliding, human rights abuses, and provocations under Erdogan.

Later, Erdogan held a separate meeting with European Council President Charles Michel. Michel wrote on Twitter that he and Erdogan had "explored opportunities ahead to bring cooperation back to the forefront and re-energise our relations."

"From the Swedish side we continue to advocate closer cooperation between the Union and Turkey," Kristersson said.

Hungary has strongly signaled it will follow Erdogan's lead and approve Sweden's membership should Turkey give its green light.

Biden welcomes Erdogan's green light for Sweden

US President Joe Biden welcomed to Turkey's leaders agreement to back Sweden's application.

"I stand ready to work with President Erdogan and Turkey on enhancing defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

"I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Kristersson and Sweden as our 32nd NATO ally."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomed the news writing on Twitter, "the way is finally clear for Turkey's ratification of Sweden's NATO membership."

"Our joint efforts have paid off," she wrote, adding that with Sweden in NATO "we're all safer together."

It was a sentiment shared by the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who hailed it as "good news for the Swedish people and for our common security & defense policy."

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Sweden joining NATO would "make us all safer," and French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, said she hoped Turkey's ratification of Sweden's adhesion protocol, "happens quickly."

lo/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)