Turkish parliament commission paves way for Sweden's Nato membership

After months of hurdles, Sweden is one step closer to joining military alliance

The Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission has approved Sweden's Nato membership bid. AFP
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Sweden took a significant step towards joining Nato on Tuesday with the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission approving its bid.

The move is crucial for Sweden's bid to join the western alliance and follows a 19-month delay due to Turkey demanding certain security measures from Sweden.

The commission, led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), voted to support Sweden's application, which was submitted in reaction to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The ratification process now moves to the parliament itself – the Grand National Assembly of Turkey – which Mr Erdogan’s party also controls.

If the General Assembly votes in favour of Sweden's bid, Mr Erdogan will sign off on the decision to complete the process.

Commission head Fuat Oktay said that the General Assembly's vote might not happen immediately, stating that the Speaker would set the timetable.

“The decision to submit it to the General Assembly has been made now, but this should not be interpreted as [a sign] that it will pass the General Assembly with the same speed. There is no such thing,” said Mr Oktay.

The approval has been expected by some of Turkey's allies and is considered to be a significant moment in assessing Ankara's relations with the West.

The AKP along with its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies as well as the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) voted in favour of the ratification. However, the smaller Islamist Felicity party and the right nationalist Iyi party opposed it.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg commended the Turkish parliamentary committee for approving Sweden's bid.

He urged Turkey and Hungary to complete their ratifications promptly, highlighting that Sweden's membership will enhance Nato's strength.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom welcomed the commission's decision, expressing his country's readiness to join Nato.

Boris Ruge, Nato's assistant secretary general for political affairs and security policy, also expressed his approval of the decision, saying it was “excellent news”.

Turkish objections

Turkey initially opposed Sweden and Finland joining Nato, with Mr Erdogan citing their support for groups Ankara deems terrorist organisations as well as their defence embargoes.

Sweden, which had to wait longer than Finland for ratification, was required to take stronger measures against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), labelled a terrorist organisation by both the EU and the US.

Stockholm introduced a new antiterrorism law and, along with Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands, took steps to relax arms export policies with regard to Turkey.

Although Hungary still needs to ratify Sweden's membership, Turkey's approval is seen as vital for Sweden's inclusion in Nato and the strengthening of defences in the Baltic Sea region.

Mr Erdogan linked the forwarding of Sweden's application to parliament in October to the US government's approval of F-16 fighter jet sales to Turkey.

Despite support from the White House, the sale is pending US congressional approval.

Turkey faces opposition due to its human rights record and stance on Nato expansion.

Updated: December 27, 2023, 1:03 PM