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Erdogan submits bill on Sweden's NATO membership to parliament

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 23, 2023 6:41 PM 2 min read
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media during a joint press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 8, 2023, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signed a long-awaited protocol on Sweden's NATO accession, which now has to be ratified by parliament, the Turkish Republic's Directorate of Communications announced on Oct. 23.

It was not clarified when the Turkish parliament is expected to vote on the matter.

Both Sweden and Finland applied to join the alliance in May 2022 following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Turkey initially blocked both of their bids but gave the green light to Finland's accession in March.

Among the main reasons why Ankara denied Stockholm's entry was the alleged Swedish support for Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists. Sweden denied such support.

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In fact, President Erdogan has said that the Turkish parliament would only ratify Sweden's accession to NATO once the U.S. approves the sale of its F-16 fighter jets to Ankara

Ankara requested to buy $20 billion of F-16 aircraft and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes from the U.S. in October 2021.

On the eve of the NATO summit in Vilnius in July, reports appeared that Erdogan was to approve Sweden's entry into the alliance.

"President Erdogan has agreed to forward Sweden's accession protocol to the Grand National Assembly ASAP and ensure ratification," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on July 10.

The next day, the Biden administration said that it would move forward with the sale of F-16s to Turkey.

However, months passed without news on the matter. Erdogan said again in September that the Turkish parliament would only ratify Sweden's accession once the U.S. government approves the sale of its F-16s.

"If they (the U.S.) keep their promises, our parliament will keep its own promise as well. Turkish parliament will have the final say on Sweden's NATO membership," Erdogan told reporters on Sept. 26.

Two days later, the new foreign relations chair of the U.S. Senate, Ben Cardin, said he was looking into the issue. His predecessor had been blocking the sale, according to Reuters.  

"They claim that will be done in the first part of next month," Cardin said, referring to Turkey's signing of the protocol.

Sweden still needs the green light from Hungary, another NATO member that is blocking its accession, before it can join the alliance.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Sept. 25 that Budapest is in "no rush" with the ratification, suggesting further delays before the Nordic country can join the military bloc.

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