Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to present Sweden’s NATO membership bid to the Turkish parliament “as soon as possible”, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Monday.
The breakthrough came after a meeting between Erdogan and Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Vilnius, Lithuania, where NATO leaders are gathered for a two-day summit.
Sweden and Finland applied for membership in May 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. According to NATO rules, all member states must ratify the accession of new members. Turkey and Hungary were the only two countries that had not done so, citing various concerns.
Erdogan had voiced repeated frustrations with what he called Sweden’s failure to deal with suspected Kurdish militants allegedly “roaming the streets” of Stockholm. He also linked Sweden’s NATO bid to Turkey’s long-standing aspiration to join the European Union, which has been stalled by several obstacles.
However, after talks with Kristersson, Erdogan said he was satisfied with the steps taken by Sweden to address Turkey’s security concerns and support its EU integration process. He also said he was impressed by Kristersson’s personal commitment to strengthening bilateral relations and cooperation on regional and global issues.
Stoltenberg welcomed Erdogan’s pledge and praised Turkey’s role as a key ally in NATO. He said Turkey’s support for Sweden’s membership would send a strong signal of solidarity and unity among NATO members in the face of Russia’s aggression and other challenges.
Erdogan’s Friendly Face
Kristersson also expressed his gratitude to Erdogan and said Sweden looked forward to becoming a full member of NATO soon. He said Sweden shared NATO ‘s values and vision of a free and peaceful Europe and was ready to contribute to the collective defence and security of the alliance.
Sweden is expected to become the 32nd member of NATO once Turkey and Hungary complete their ratification procedures. The accession protocol for Sweden was signed by NATO on 5 July 2022.
Sweden has a long history of neutrality and non-alignment, dating back to the 19th century. However, it has also maintained close relations and cooperation with NATO since joining the Partnership for Peace program in 1994.
The Russian annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2022 prompted Sweden to reconsider its security policy and seek closer ties with NATO. A majority of Swedes supported joining NATO in opinion polls conducted after the Ukrainian crisis.