Turkish parliament backs Sweden’s bid to join Nato

Turkish MPs have approved Sweden’s bid to join the Nato, ending one of the last hurdles after an almost 20-month-long deadlock in expanding the block in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden requested to join the alliance after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 along with Finland but a diplomatic standoff began between Turkey and Western powers after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan withheld support.

Legislators ratified Sweden’s accession to Nato with 287 votes to 55 with four abstentions following more than four hours of debates.

President Erdogan is expected to sign the legislation in the coming days.

Sweden now only requires ratification from Hungary to win its final approval to join the alliance.

“Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of Nato,” Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson said.

Swedish foreign minister Tobias Billström said: “We are very much looking forward to becoming members of Nato.”

“We do expect white smoke from Budapest as well.”


Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Turkey’s vote and urged Hungary to move quickly to allow Sweden’s Nato bid. “Sweden has fulfilled its commitments. Sweden’s membership makes Nato stronger and all of us safer,” he said.

Turkey, one of Nato’s 31 members, withheld Sweden’s accession for giving refuge to Kurdish militants that Ankara regards as security threats. It sought efforts by Stockholm to crackdown on separatist groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has been labelled by Turkey, the US and the EU as a terrorist organisation.

But since then, Sweden has amended its anti-terrorism laws and made it illegal to give financial and logistical support to the PKK in June. It also convicted a terrorism suspect, extradited another, and lifted restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.

“PKK-affiliated circles no longer find a comfortable room for maneuver in Sweden as they did in the past,” Fuat Oktay, a senior legislator in Erdogan’s governing party and the head of the foreign affairs committee, told parliament.

Sweden’s Nato bid had been blocked by Turkey and Hungary since 2022

(Turkish Presidency)

The inclusion of Sweden in Nato would mark a substantial expansion, with analysts suggesting that it has the potential to alter the balance of power in Europe. This addition would bring not only thousands of soldiers but also significant naval and air capabilities.

Turkey had argued Sweden was giving refuge to Kurdish militants, and needed to do more to crack down on rebel groups like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist organisation. The EU and US have also designated the PKK as a terrorist group.

The inclusion of Finland and Sweden would enable the alliance to effectively extend its operations across a 1,000-mile stretch from the Baltic Sea to the Arctic.

With Sweden joining the block, Russia would be the only non-Nato country bordering the Baltic Sea, compelling its warships to navigate near shores under Nato control when traveling to the Atlantic.

Russia has repeatedly warned the two countries against joining the alliance and said it would have “serious military and political consequences”.

But Vladimir Putin has also downplayed the significance of the expansion and said it “does not pose a direct threat to Russia”.

Turkey’s ratification has put a spotlight on Hungary whose populist prime minister Viktor Orbán – widely considered one of Mr Putin’s only allies in the EU – has stalled the vote.

Hungary criticised the country for its democratic credentials and the government’s spokesperson said that it “crumbling throne of moral superiority”. However, the officials and experts said that the move was linked to its ties with Ankara and Moscow.

Mr Orbán said on Tuesday that he invited Sweden’s prime minister to visit Hungary “to negotiate on Sweden’s Nato accession”.

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