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10 Jul, 2023 21:55

Türkiye agrees to back Sweden’s NATO bid

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dropped his opposition to Stockholm’s application to join the Western military bloc
Türkiye agrees to back Sweden’s NATO bid

NATO has cleared the way for Sweden to join the Western military alliance by persuading Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end his opposition to Stockholm’s bid.

The Turkish leader agreed to support Sweden’s application and forward the proposal to Ankara lawmakers for ratification, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after hosting a meeting between Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Monday in Vilnius. “This is an historic step which makes all NATO allies stronger and safer,” he added.

Türkiye had stood in the way of NATO’s latest expansion, using its veto power largely on concern that Sweden hadn’t done enough to help crack down on pro-Kurdish “terrorist organizations.” The 31-nation alliance requires unanimous approval for all new members. Earlier on Monday, Erdogan suggested that Ankara would approve Sweden’s bid if Türkiye were welcomed into the European Union.

Stoltenberg, who denied any linkage between the NATO expansion and Türkiye’s EU accession, said Erdogan and Kristersson worked closely together to address Ankara’s “legitimate security concerns.” He added, “As part of that process, Sweden has amended its constitution, changed its laws, significantly expanded its counterterrorism operation against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), and resumed its arms exports to Türkiye.”

Erdogan pledged to forward Sweden’s NATO bid to Turkish lawmakers as soon as possible and help “ensure ratification,” Stoltenberg said. No clear timeline has been set for Stockholm’s accession to the bloc.

Sweden and neighboring Finland applied for NATO membership last year, abandoning their long traditions of military neutrality on fears raised by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Finland was officially admitted to the alliance in April, but Türkiye blocked Sweden’s application after accusing the country of sheltering Kurdish terrorists.

US President Joe Biden has pressured Erdogan to drop his opposition to NATO’s expansion, suggesting that the issue must be resolved for Washington to approve the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye.