Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favour of Sweden’s accession to NATO, clearing a long-standing hurdle for the Nordic country to join the Western military alliance.
The vote was 287 in favour, 55 against with four abstentions.
The Swedish government welcomed the Turkish parliament’s approval and urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to finalize the ratification as soon as possible.
“Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO,” wrote Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the online platform X on Tuesday evening.
Foreign Minister Tobias Billström also welcomed the news from Ankara.
“It is of course good that the Turkish parliament has now voted in favour,” he told the radio station SVT.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was pleased with the Turkish parliament’s approval of Sweden’s entry into the defence alliance and called on Hungary to follow suit.
“I welcome the vote by the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye to ratify Sweden’s membership in NATO,” Stoltenberg announced on Tuesday evening.
“I also count on Hungary to complete its national ratification as soon as possible,” he added.
“All NATO Allies agreed in Vilnius to invite Sweden to join our Alliance, and Sweden has fulfilled its commitments. Sweden’s membership makes NATO stronger and all of us safer,” the NATO chief said.
The German government also welcomed the Turkish parliament’s approval.
“This is an important and correct decision. Sweden’s pending accession, like Finland’s already completed accession, will further strengthen the North Atlantic Alliance as a whole,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit announced on Tuesday evening.
“The German government assumes that the accession process can now be completed swiftly.”
Following Tuesday evening’s vote, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan must now sign the so-called accession protocol and it must be published in the Official Gazette before it takes effect.
Turkish approval leaves Hungary as the only NATO member yet to ratify Sweden’s accession.
Every NATO member needs to give the green light for Sweden to be able to join.
The threat of further Russian aggression in light of the war in Ukraine had pushed Sweden and Finland to ask to join NATO. Finland joined in April last year, but Sweden’s bid has been less straightforward.
Erdoğan had tied his country’s approval to US delivery of F-16 fighter jets, among other demands. US Congress has yet to approve the jet sales to Turkey.
It was not immediately clear if Ankara has secured any concessions from NATO ahead of its green light to Sweden.
Turkey had been delaying the ratification for more than a year due to Stockholm’s alleged support to groups Ankara labels as “terrorists” – primarily referring to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked the parliament to start the voting process on Sweden after Stockholm tightened its anti-terrorism legislation.
As far as Turkey is concerned, the uncertainty has been brought to an end by the vote in parliament, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamic-conservative AKP, in alliance with the ultra-nationalists, has a majority.
The vote needs to be published on the Official Gazette with Erdoğan’s signature on it for the decision to be officially final.
Earlier on Tuesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said he had sent a letter inviting his Swedish counterpart, Ulf Kristersson, to discuss Sweden’s NATO membership bid.
Turkey and Hungary have maintained close diplomatic and trade ties with Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The rest of NATO supports Ukraine. Both Turkey and Hungary have been critical of Western sanctions on Russia.
Still, after Finland, Sweden’s NATO membership is seen as bolstering a US-led anti-Russia defence line in the Baltic Sea.
Moscow had last year threatened countermeasures, dubbing NATO’s expansion an attack on its security.
Sweden’s expected accession comes a week after NATO announced plans for the alliance’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War, mobilizing 90,000 soldiers to kick off in February.
Analysts consider this a strong message to Moscow against any aggression both on the ground and politically with Sweden’s accession.
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