NATO States Hail Turkey’s Delayed Support for Swedish Membership
The announcement that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to set aside his objections to NATO membership for Sweden was welcomed, but details of the conditions for the lifting of Ankara’s veto remain unknown.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Monday night that after months of obstruction, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has finally agreed to support Sweden’s NATO membership bid – a move hailed by other members of the Western military alliance.
“I stand ready to work with President Erdogan and Turkey on enhancing defence and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area. I look forward to welcoming [Swedish] Prime Minister [Ulf] Kristersson and Sweden as our 32nd NATO ally,” the White House said in a statement.
“At 32, we’re all safer together,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on Twitter, while British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also said that Sweden joining would “make us all safer”.
Stoltenberg said that Erdogan’s decision to support Sweden’s membership was an historic step which makes all NATO allies stronger
“President Erdogan has agreed to forward Sweden’s accession protocol to the [Turkish] Grand National Assembly as soon as possible and ensure ratification,” Stoltenberg said.
Turkey had blocked Sweden’s membership bid over its claims that Stockholm has been hosting and supporting Kurdish groups that Turkey designates as terrorist organisations.
Sweden changed legislation and promised action to accommodate Turkey’s demands but Erdogan refused to drop his objections, seeking further concessions, until his apparent about-turn on Monday.
However, no timeline has been announced for the Turkish parliament’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership protocol.
The agreed conditions for President Erdogan lifting his veto are also unknown.
Erdogan was previously asking the US to sell him new F-16 jet fighters and the Turkish leader this week unexpectedly asked Brussels to revive Ankara’s EU membership process, which has been practically dead for more than a decade.
“First, let’s clear Turkey’s way in the EU, then let’s clear the way for Sweden, just as we paved the way for Finland,” Erdogan told a news conference on Monday before he travelled to Vilnius for this week’s NATO summit.
The NATO Summit is opening on Tuesday with the alliance’s leaders expected to adopt new defence plans amidst the war in Ukraine.
The US and other members pushed Turkey to ratify Sweden’s membership before the summit but Ankara insisted that Sweden must take concrete steps, including the extradition of political fugitives by Stockholm.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Sweden and Scandinavian neighbour Finland to apply to join the Western alliance.
Finland joined NATO in April. All NATO members except for Turkey and Hungary – which has been acting in cooperation with Turkey – have since ratified Sweden’s NATO membership in their parliaments.
Countries can join NATO only if all its members unanimously agree, which effectively gave Turkey veto powers over Sweden’s bid to join.
A Council of Europe report said on June 23 that Turkey’s government was using its blockade of Sweden’s NATO membership bid to exert its power over its critics living abroad.