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Turkey ratifies Sweden's Nato membership after months of blocking accession

Sweden now only needs Hungary's approval to become a full member of military alliance
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands next to Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on the eve of the Nato summit, Vilnius, Lithuania, 10 July 2023 (Yves Herman/AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Izmir, Turkey

Turkey's parliament on Tuesday ratified Sweden’s membership of Nato after years of heated negotiations and obstacles to the country joining the military alliance.

The majority of Turkish MPs voted for Sweden's bid, including members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Finland and Sweden’s requests to join Nato in 2022, sparked off by Russia's invasion of Ukraine that year, were blocked for many months and years by Turkey who accused them of failing to crack down on groups considered terrorist organisations, particularly members and sympathisers of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Ankara later approved Finland’s bid but has repeatedly blocked Sweden’s accession, citing Quran-burning protests by far-right activists in the country, and demonstrations against Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The ratification on Tuesday leaves just Hungary’s parliament needing to ratify the Swedish bid to finalise the Nato accession. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Tuesday that he would invite his Swedish counterpart to Budapest for further negotiations on the issue.

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Erdogan in December said that Ankara could move forward with Sweden’s bid if the US finalised a sale package of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey as well as the removal of an arms embargo by Canada.

US President Joe Biden's administration repeatedly said that it would support Turkey’s
purchase request but that Capitol Hill, especially the US senate, could block it if Ankara did not finally approve the Swedish bid.

Sweden and Nato: Has Stockholm appeased Turkey too much?
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Officials in Ankara expect the Biden administration will now formally notify the US congress on the multi-billion dollar sale to Turkey.

In order to convince pro-Greece US senators, the Biden administration is expected to sugarcoat the deal by also selling two dozen of fifth generation advanced jets, F-35s, to Athens.

While Erdogan has staked out a different position to the West over the war in Gaza, he has tried to mend fences with regional states and recently made a historic visit to Greece, Turkey's longtime rival in the eastern Mediterranean.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, who took over as chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee from noted Turkey critic Robert Menendez, said in October that Sweden's Nato bid was just one of several issues he would look at, along with how Turkey "uses the F-16s".

Meanwhile, Congressman Gregory Meeks, the ranking member of the House Foreign
Relations Committee, has said he would like to see a "de-escalation of tensions in the
Aegean" in addition to Sweden's accession.

The House and Senate Republican leaders on the committees have generally been more
supportive of the sale.

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