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24 Jan, 2024 02:03

Turkish MPs approve new NATO expansion

Ankara has given the green light to Sweden’s bid to join the US-led military a bloc
Turkish MPs approve new NATO expansion

The Turkish parliament voted in favor of Sweden joining NATO on Tuesday, following a 20-month deadlock due to tensions between Ankara and Stockholm.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to sign the bill within days, according to the BBC, leaving Hungary as the final member of the 31-nation alliance to approve Sweden’s bid.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson took to X (formerly Twitter) to say: “Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO. Positive that the Grand General Assembly of Türkiye has voted in favor of Sweden’s NATO accession.”

Ankara had previously refused to greenlight the accession of Sweden, demanding that it toughen its stance on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Türkiye considers a terrorist group. Ankara accused the Swedish authorities of harboring Kurdish activists with ties to the PKK and demanded their extradition.

Along with neighboring Finland, Sweden applied to join the US-led bloc in May 2022, dropping its long-standing policy of non-alignment three months after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine.

Finland officially became a NATO member in April 2023. With Helsinki’s membership, the Western alliance roughly doubled the length of its border with Russia.

Swedish politicians have told the public to prepare for a potential escalation, with Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom warning about a “drawn-out confrontation” with Moscow.

This comes as NATO is planning its largest war games in decades – Steadfast Defender 2024 – which will run from February to May and will involve around 90,000 troops from all 31 member states and Sweden, NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe Christopher Cavoli announced last week.

Moscow has for decades insisted that NATO’s expansion towards its borders poses a threat to national security, and cited the alliance’s ties with Ukraine as one of the root causes of the current conflict.