Turkey approves Sweden's accession to Nato

Hungary is now the only Nato ally not to have ratified Sweden’s membership

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson as Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on in July 2023. AP
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Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday approved Sweden’s accession to become a member of Nato, lifting a key hurdle to its entry into the military alliance.

Politicians voted 287-55 in favour with four abstentions for the Nordic nation to become the 32nd member of the alliance.

The approval will come into effect after its publication in the Official Gazette.

Hungary is now the only Nato ally not to have ratified Sweden’s accession, which needs to be approved by all member countries.

Nato member Turkey had been delaying Sweden’s membership for more than a year, accusing the country of being too lenient to groups that Ankara regards as security threats.

Nato through the years - in pictures

It has been seeking concessions from Stockholm, including a tougher stance toward Kurdish militants and members of a network that Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016.

Turkey had also been angered by demonstrations by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Sweden, and Quran-burning protests.

Sweden has stayed out of military alliances for more than 200 years and long ruled out seeking Nato membership. But after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it ditched its longstanding policy of nonalignment almost overnight and decided to apply to join the alliance together with neighbouring Finland.

"Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of Nato," Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on social media after the vote.

Nato's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Hungary clearly supports the accession of Sweden to Nato and will ratify its application soon.

"Good call with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary. I welcome the clear support of the Prime Minister and his government for Sweden's Nato membership," Stoltenberg said in a post on social media.

"I look forward to the ratification as soon as parliament reconvenes."

The United States also applauded the Turkish parliament's vote, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan saying on social media that Sweden's addition to Nato will make the alliance "safer and stronger".

Viktor Orban invites Swedish PM to discuss Nato accession

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday invited Mr Kristersson to Budapest to discuss Sweden's Nato accession bid.

Mr Orban has demanded "respect" from the Nordic country, a fellow European Union member.

In a letter to Mr Kristersson, he said that "a more intensive political dialogue could contribute to reinforcing the mutual trust" between the two countries, allowing them to "further strengthen our political and security arrangements".

"I invite you to visit Hungary at your earliest convenience to exchange views on all issues of common interest," Mr Orban wrote in the letter seen by AFP.

On X, he said he had invited Mr Kristersson to Hungary "to negotiate" on Sweden's Nato accession.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom replied that there was "no reason to negotiate" with Hungary, although Sweden was open to discussions.

"The main thing is that this letter does not talk about negotiations, but about discussions, which is of course what we want," Mr Billstrom said.

"I make a difference between what is written on Twitter and what is written in the letter. The letter is the official communication from Budapest to our government."

Hungary has often denounced what it called Sweden's "openly hostile attitude", accusing Swedish representatives of being "repeatedly keen to bash Hungary" on rule-of-law issues.

Last week, Hungary criticised Sweden for not taking steps to strengthen bilateral relations.

Mr Orban's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, on Thursday suggested the Swedish government "should get in touch, ask what concerns the Hungarian parliament has and what they can do about it".

Hungary has repeatedly insisted it supports Sweden's bid but has repeatedly delayed arranging a vote in parliament to ratify the bid.

"To put it in a nutshell: they are asking us for a blood pact without being willing to make any gestures in return," Matyas Kohan from Hungary's pro-government Mandiner magazine wrote.

Hungary's opposition has been pressing the government to schedule a vote, although the parliament is in recess until next month.

The Hungarian Socialist Party on Tuesday asked Mr Orban "to stop this stupid, harmful and unnecessary charade".

Sweden and Finland applied for Nato membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland became a member last April.

Mr Orban and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have maintained a good rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the Ukraine war.

Nato leaders had feared that the Kremlin was trying to use Mr Orban and Mr Erdogan to sow divisions in the West.

The bloc's commanders have cast the expansion as a show of western resolve in the face of Russian aggression.

Updated: January 24, 2024, 1:21 PM