Turkey’s parliamentary committee gives nod to Sweden’s NATO bid

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Sweden’s NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) membership application has been approved by the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission, Al Jazeera reported. The decision, made on Tuesday, is a critical step towards expanding the military alliance after 19 months of delays caused by Ankara’s demand for security concessions from Stockholm.

The panel, which is controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), agreed to support Sweden’s petition last year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The next step is a vote by the entire parliament, which the AK Party and its allies control. Sweden’s NATO membership is expected to pass, and the bill would then be sent to Erdogan, according to Al Jazeera.

If he signs it into law, he will bring an end to an almost two-year process that has irritated some of Ankara’s Western partners. However, Commission Chairman Fuat Oktay downplayed hopes for a quick vote in the entire Grand National Assembly, telling reporters that the speaker will decide on the time of the vote. Parliament will also take a two-week break in early January, according to Al Jazeera.

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“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 Oktay. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom stated in a statement following the commission’s approval that Sweden welcomed the decision and looked forward to joining NATO.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised the Turkish parliamentary commission’s decision as well. Turkey confirmed Finland’s petition in April but held Sweden, hostage, until it takes additional steps to crack down on local members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey, the European Union, and the United States have designated as a terrorist organisation, reported Al Jazeera.

Sweden, as well as NATO allies Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands, took steps to ease Turkey’s arms export rules. While NATO member Hungary has not confirmed Sweden’s membership, Turkey is viewed as the primary impediment to Sweden joining the military alliance and strengthening its fortifications in the Baltic Sea region.