Ankara, Turkey – In a landmark decision, Sweden’s ambition to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) received a significant boost as the Turkish parliamentary foreign affairs committee approved its application. This decision, taken on Tuesday, marks a critical but not final phase towards Sweden’s NATO membership, following a prolonged 19-month period during which Ankara pressed for specific measures from Stockholm, focusing on Kurdish groups considered security threats by Turkey.
The committee’s consent, influenced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), propels Sweden’s application to the next legislative phase. The matter now moves to the general assembly of the Turkish parliament, where the majority presence of the AKP and its “allies” is expected to favor the candidacy unless something changes. The final decision rests with Turkish President Erdogan, whose signature will mark the end of a complex process that has strained Turkey’s ties with its Western allies.
Fuat Oktay, the chairman of the committee, noted that the timing of the vote is at the discretion of the parliament’s president. Furthermore, an upcoming two-week break in early January may further delay the decision. Responding to the committee’s approval, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström expressed optimism about Sweden’s prospects of joining NATO.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, praised the decision of the Turkish committee, emphasizing the potential strengthening of NATO with Sweden’s inclusion. He appealed to Turkey and Hungary, which is also delaying the ratification process, to expedite their approvals.
The delay in approving Sweden’s NATO membership is partly attributed to Turkish President Erdogan’s confrontation with the United States, specifically the U.S. Congress, which is blocking Turkey’s procurement of 40 F-16V fighter aircraft and upgrade kits for its existing fleet. Despite the White House’s approval, the proposal faces significant obstacles from the U.S. Congress, the Greek diaspora, and other factors in the U.S.