A Turkish parliamentary committee resumes debate on Sweden’s NATO bid

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The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee was poised on Tuesday to resume deliberations on Sweden’s bid to join NATO, days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan linked the Nordic country’s admission to US approval of Turkiye’s request to purchase F-16 fighter jets. NATO-member Turkey lifted its objection to Sweden joining the trans-Atlantic alliance in July but the ratification process has since stalled in parliament.

Turkiye accuses Sweden of not taking Turkiye’s security concerns seriously enough, including its fight against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers to be security threats. This month, Erdogan threw another obstacle by openly linking ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership to the US Congress’ approval of Turkiye’s request to purchase 40 new F-16 fighter jets and kits to modernise its existing fleet.

The Turkish leader also called on the two legislatures to act “simultaneously” and said Canada and other NATO allies must lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkiye. The White House has backed the Turkish F-16 request but there is strong opposition in Congress to military sales to Turkiye. The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee had begun discussing Sweden’s membership in NATO last month.

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The meeting however, was adjourned after legislators from Erdogan’s ruling party submitted a motion for a postponement on grounds that some issues needed more clarification and that negotiations with Sweden had not “matured” enough. If approved by the committee, Sweden’s bid would then need to be approved by the full assembly. Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Finland joined the alliance in April, becoming NATO’s 31st member, after Turkiye’s parliament ratified the Nordic country’s bid. NATO requires the unanimous approval of all existing members to expand, and Turkiye and Hungary are the only countries that have been holding out. Hungary has stalled Sweden’s bid, alleging that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the condition of Hungary’s democracy. The delays have frustrated other NATO allies who were swift to accept Sweden and Finland into the alliance.