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Turkey could advance vote on Sweden’s Nato bid next week, top lawmaker says

Turkish parliamentary committee might send protocols for ratification to the floor as a goodwill gesture next week
Then-Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay speaks as the General Assembly in Ankara on 5 December 2022 (Adem Altan/AFP)
The lawmaker Fuat Oktay is chairman of the foreign relations committee and an ally of President Erdogan (Adem Altan/AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey's ratification of Sweden’s Nato membership may be sent next week to a parliamentary vote, a top Turkish lawmaker told Middle East Eye on Thursday.

Fuat Oktay, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, said the committee may convene to debate the protocol and could approve it before sending it to the floor as a “gesture of goodwill”.

He added that Ankara still expects more from Stockholm on “counterterrorism” in the meantime, especially a crackdown on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members and sympathisers.

“We understand that Sweden has made several legal amendments and taken some concrete steps,” Oktay said. “But we would have to see more implementation on the cases related to terrorism funding and recruitment.”

However, he said “some movement from the other side” is expected before a final vote in parliament. 

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Western diplomats speaking to MEE this week said they expect the Turkish parliament to ratify the protocols before the new year or soon after. 

“The phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden last week appears to have gone well,” one western diplomat said. 

Oktay, a close ally of Erodgan and a member of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), appeared last week to dismiss any tie between Sweden’s Nato bid and Turkey’s F-16 purchase request from the US

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However, in an interview earlier this week Erdogan said developments on the US sale of the fighter jets to Ankara, as well as the removal of an arms embargo by Canada, were linked to the Swedish bid. 

"Positive developments we expect both on F-16s and Canada's promises would help our parliament to have a positive approach on Sweden... All of them are linked," Erdogan said. 

Last year, Turkey blocked both Finland and Sweden’s requests to join Nato, accusing them of adopting a lax attitude towards the PKK. 

Ankara later approved Finland’s bid but has continued to slow-walk Sweden’s accession, citing Quran-burning protests and anti-Turkey demonstrations in Stockholm, among other things. 

Oktay brought the protocols for debate to the committee in October, but called off the meeting before a vote, surprising many. Some Ankara insiders tied that to Turkey’s anger towards western states who backed Israel's onslaught in Gaza. Others said the Turkish leadership had little trust in the administration of US President Joe Biden regarding the delivery of the F-16s as promised. 

“People should learn to take the Turkish parliament seriously,” Oktay said. “They need to learn that we also need convincing.” 

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