Turkish Approval Advances Sweden’s NATO Membership After Prolonged Tensions

In a significant development on Sweden’s journey towards NATO membership, Turkish lawmakers have ratified Sweden’s bid, marking a crucial step forward. The move comes after a lengthy delay and political tensions related to Sweden’s application, submitted in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The prolonged approval process, primarily fueled by a dispute over Sweden’s alleged support for Kurdish separatists, is set to conclude as Turkish President Erdogan is expected to sign the legislation in the coming days.

Sweden’s NATO application faced obstacles as Turkey, a NATO member, raised concerns about Sweden’s perceived backing of Kurdish militants, particularly the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US. The disagreement led to Turkey blocking Sweden’s application until July, when an agreement was reached. The vote in favour of Swedish membership on Tuesday evening, with 287 lawmakers supporting and 55 opposing, marks a crucial step towards integration into the alliance.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson expressed optimism on social media, stating, “Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Turkey’s vote and emphasised the importance of Hungary completing its national ratification promptly, leaving Hungary as the sole NATO member yet to ratify Sweden’s accession.

While Hungary has accused Sweden of adopting a hostile attitude, there are signs of progress. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently invited his Swedish counterpart to Budapest for talks, suggesting that “a more intensive dialogue could contribute to reinforcing trust.” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom indicated a willingness for dialogue with Hungary, though no formal negotiations have been initiated.

The tensions surrounding Sweden’s NATO bid highlight broader geopolitical complexities, including concerns about Russia’s actions in Ukraine and internal disagreements among NATO members. As Sweden moves closer to NATO membership, the diplomatic intricacies and ongoing dialogue with Hungary underscore the challenges associated with expanding the alliance.

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