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Turkish parliament votes in favour of Sweden’s accession to Nato

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Turkey’s parliament has voted in favour of Sweden joining Nato, marking a significant step forward in the Scandinavian country’s long-fought bid to enter the western military alliance.

The vote late on Tuesday paves the way for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to give Turkey’s seal of approval on Nato membership for Sweden, which dropped its centuries-old policy of military non-alignment after Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s prime minister, welcomed the news, saying on X: “Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of Nato. Positive that the Grand General Assembly of Türkiye has voted in favour of Sweden’s Nato accession.”

Nordic and Baltic leaders in particular welcomed the ratification as strengthening regional security. “Sweden’s Nato membership will be a significant step towards a safer Baltic Sea region and stronger alliance,” said Gitanas Nausėda, Lithuania’s president.

Jens Stoltenberg, the military alliance’s secretary-general, said: “I welcome the vote . . . [and] also count on Hungary to complete its national ratification as soon as possible.”

Erdoğan vowed to approve accession last July, but the process has been beset by delays, which have driven a wedge between Ankara and its western allies.

Turkey and Hungary are the only Nato members that have not yet approved Sweden’s request to join the alliance. Washington and Brussels have vigorously lobbied both countries for ratification as a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the alliance, the underpinning of European security since the cold war, stands united against Moscow’s aggression.

Sweden’s military chief and prime minister have both directly warned Swedes this year to be prepared for war, comments that have drawn admiration from some and criticism from others for fear-mongering.

Finland, which shares a 1,340km border with Russia, joined Nato last April as the group’s 31st member.

Hungary is broadly expected to follow Turkey’s lead on ratifying Sweden’s accession. Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, said on Tuesday in a post on social media site X that he would invite Kristersson “for a visit to Hungary to negotiate on Sweden’s Nato accession”.

Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, told reporters on Tuesday that “I see no reason to negotiate in this situation”. He added that “we can continue with dialogue” and noted that the tone of an invitation letter that offered details beyond the X post from Orbán was different. 

Orbán has been at odds with Swedish politicians who have often criticised Budapest for unwinding democratic checks and balances and accused his regime of rampant corruption — charges that Orbán has rejected and said were unfriendly from a possible military ally.

But Budapest has also relied on Swedish technology in its armed forces, maintaining a fleet of Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets.

Turkey, which has been a Nato member since 1952, has retained strong ties with Russia even as its western partners have shunned the country. It has, for example, boosted trade with Russia since the beginning of the Ukraine war and also declined to join up to western sanctions.

Turkey’s parliament is controlled by Erdoğan’s political coalition, and analysts say Tuesday’s vote would have been unlikely without his approval. Erdoğan must still sign off on the ratification protocol.

The Turkish president has said he expects the US to agree to Turkey’s request to buy billions of dollars’ worth of F-16 fighter jets in return for approval of Stockholm’s bid. 

The Biden administration has been supportive of the arms deal but some members of the US Senate’s powerful foreign relations committee have expressed concerns over issues including Turkey’s turbulent relationship with Greece, which has begun to improve since Erdoğan travelled to Athens late last year.

Ankara has also demanded that Stockholm steps up its fight against a Kurdish militant group that has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey. A series of measures passed by Sweden including a new anti-terrorism law that went into effect last year have helped assuage Turkey’s concerns, according to Turkish officials and diplomats.

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