Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has submitted a bill on Sweden’s NATO membership bid to parliament, after months of back-and-forth with Western countries over the issue.
Erdogan told his NATO allies at a summit in July that he would send the legislation to the Turkish parliament when it reconvened on October 1, having previously raised objections over a range of security concerns.
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Since parliament reopened, however, Turkish officials have repeatedly said Stockholm needed to take more concrete steps to clamp down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) armed group, which has been designated a “terrorist organisation” by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
“The Protocol on Sweden’s NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey,” the presidency said on social media platform X on Monday.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the development.
“Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the question,” Kristersson said on social media platform X. “We look forward to being a NATO member.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he looked forward to a “speedy vote” in the Turkish parliament.
There is no set timeframe for ratification. The bill will be put on the agenda of parliament’s foreign affairs commission, which will have to pass it before it can be sent to the general assembly for ratification.
Turkey’s changing stance
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Sweden and Finland abandoned their long-standing non-aligned status and asked to join NATO in May 2022. In order for new countries to join the transatlantic military alliance, all 31 current NATO members must endorse their efforts.
Finland’s request was approved by all members, and it became a NATO member in April. Sweden’s bid for membership has been ratified by all members apart from Hungary and Turkey.
Erdogan had accused Stockholm of being too soft on the PKK and other groups his country considers to be security threats. Turkey also was angered by a series of Quran-burning protests in Sweden.
Turkey’s foreign ministry called the events a “despicable attack” and called for “decisive measures to prevent this hate crime” in a statement issued at the time.
In July, Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected an extradition request from Turkey for two men accused of membership in the movement of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey blames for a failed coup effort in 2016.
Turkey lifted its opposition after US President Joe Biden’s administration signalled it would let Turkey buy 40 new F-16 fighter jets and modernisation kits from the US. Ankara also received assurances from Sweden that it would help revive Turkey’s own quest to join the EU.
Under the deal, NATO as an organisation agreed to address Turkey’s concerns about “terrorism”. Stoltenberg said he had appointed an assistant secretary-general to serve as his special coordinator in this effort.