In a surprise move, and with little fanfare, President Erdogan of Turkey signed a measure approving Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance and sent it to Parliament, according to a brief statement from his office.
The Protocol on Sweden’s NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye.
— Republic of Türkiye Directorate of Communications (@Communications) October 23, 2023
After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, both Finland and Sweden, which share borders with Russia, applied to join NATO, a process which must be approved by all members. Initially, Erdogan did not support either country, but in April, he backed Finland’s request. He continued to hold out on supporting Sweden, saying Sweden was “not doing enough to crack down on Turkish separatists and other Turkish dissidents,” reports Reuters.
Sweden welcomed the move. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “We look forward to becoming a member of NATO.”
Welcome that President Erdoğan signed Sweden’s ratification protocol to NATO and submitted it to the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye. Parliamentary procedures will now commence. We are looking forward to becoming a member of NATO.
— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) October 23, 2023
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed the news on Monday. “I look forward to a speedy vote to ratify, and to welcoming Sweden as a full NATO ally very soon,” he said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “As I told President Erdogan when we spoke on the weekend, this will make the whole Alliance stronger and more secure.”
Stoltenberg raised the prospect that Sweden could join at the next NATO meeting of foreign ministers on Nov. 28 and 29, according to Reuters.
Now that the president has signed the protocol on Sweden’s NATO accession, parliament will need to approve the measure. The bill approving the measure first has to go to parliament’s foreign affairs commission. Upon its passage through committee, it will be sent to the general assembly for ratification.
Erdogan’s AK Party holds 322 out of the 600 seats in parliament. The main opposition, Republican People’s Party, has previously voiced support for Sweden’s membership, and ratification is expected. The timeline has not yet been set.
Hungary is the final holdout on supporting Sweden’s bid to join NATO. On Tuesday, the Hungarian parliament refused a proposal to hold a vote, reports The Associated Press.
The governing Fidesz party, which holds an absolute majority in the Hungarian parliament, is led by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ally, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has stalled Sweden’s bid since July 2022, alleging that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the condition of Hungary’s democracy, reports the AP.
Orbán said earlier this year that Hungary was in “no hurry” to ratify Sweden’s bid, but, according to the AP, Hungarian officials have also said repeatedly that their country will not be the last member to endorse Sweden’s bid.
Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy
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