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Sweden welcomes Turkey ratifying NATO membership bid

October 24, 2023

The Turkish parliament will take up Sweden's NATO bid, bringing the Nordic nation a step closer to joining the military alliance.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan giving a speech at the Turkish parliament
The Nordic country applied for membership of the military alliance last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.Image: AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially submitted Sweden's NATO membership application to parliament, with the legislature receiving the request on Monday.

"Sweden's NATO membership protocol was signed on October 23, 2023, by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sent to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey," Erdogan's government posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The move brings Sweden closer to entering the defense alliance and would mark the end of a 17-month diplomatic standoff with Turkey over the issue.

Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members who still have not ratified Sweden's membership request.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called the announcement "encouraging news."

"Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the issue," Kristersson said, also in a post on X. "We look forward to becoming a NATO member," he added.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged the Turkish parliament to move fast and approve Sweden's membership in the alliance.

"I welcome President Erdogan's signature of the accession protocol for Sweden and its referral to the Grand National Assembly. I look forward to a speedy vote to ratify, and to welcoming Sweden as a full NATO ally very soon," Stoltenberg said in a statement.

A long diplomatic standoff

Sweden applied for NATO membership in May 2022, in the aftermath of Russia's full-blown invasion of Ukraine. The country submitted its bid alongside neighbor Finland.

But while Finland became the 31st member of the military alliance in April 2023, Sweden's bid was still stuck in negotiations with Ankara.

Turkey had expressed several objections over Sweden's NATO bid, accusing the Nordic country of harboring outlawed Kurdish militants and demanded their extradition to Turkey.

Erdogan had criticized Sweden over Koran desecration at demonstrations in the country that have angered many in Muslim countries, asking Swedish government to crack down on such protests.

Turkey’s Erdogan backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Vilnius summit resolution

Erdogan finally dropped his opposition to Sweden's bid after a NATO summit in Lithuania's capital Vilnius in July, although he still took three months to send the protocol to parliament for ratification.

Ahead of the summit, Sweden tightened control over the activities of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been fighting an insurgency against Turkey for 39 years and whom Turkey considers terrorists. In an agreement signed between the two countries, Stockholm also promised to clamp down on the YPG, the PKK's Syrian wing.

In Vilnius, Turkey is also said to have accepted Sweden's bid in exchange for increased security cooperation and Stockholm's assistance in reviving Turkey's floundering EU membership bid.

Increased trade and investment were part of the deal as well, and the US rushed to hint at new F-16 fighter jets for Turkey after years with the possible deal on ice.

jcg/wmr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)