West News Wire: According to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg’s announcement on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided to submit Sweden’s application for membership in the military alliance to Turkey’s parliament.
“I’m glad to announce that President Erdogan has agreed to forward the accession protocol for Sweden to the grand national assembly as soon as possible, and work closely with the assembly to ensure ratification,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference.
Stoltenberg did not give a time frame for when the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, which would determine the precise timeframe, would ratify Sweden’s entry into the military treaty.
Erdogan would “work closely with the Assembly to ensure ratification” of Sweden’s NATO membership, according to a Monday NATO press release.
The chief of staff for Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, said on Thursday that Budapest would also not block Sweden’s NATO membership ratification.
The declaration is made one day ahead of Tuesday’s summit of NATO members in Lithuania.
According to a Turkish official speaking to Bloomberg News, Erdogan made his choice after getting a number of assurances, including Stockholm’s response to PKK supporters working on its soil.
A trilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by Turkey, Sweden, and Finland last year to resolve a number of issues relating to terrorism and arms embargoes. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Scandinavian nations have competed to join NATO.
Earlier this year, Ankara approved Finland’s NATO membership but postponed Sweden’s due to the latter’s tolerance of anti-Turkey protests and recurrent Quran burnings by far-right groups. Any applications to the alliance must be approved by all NATO members.
President Joe Biden welcomed Monday’s news, saying in a White House statement that he was ready to work with Erdogan to enhance “defence and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area”. The White House also announced on Monday that Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Erdogan during the NATO summit.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter that “Sweden becoming our 32nd NATO Ally will strengthen the @NATO Alliance and contribute to European security”.
Earlier this year, Biden tried to convince Erdogan to support Sweden’s NATO ambition by equating it with Ankara’s massive requests for F-16 jet purchases from Washington.
The Turkish president rejected this attempt, claiming it was incorrect to link the two problems.
Also on Monday, Erdogan made a direct connection between Ankara’s long-running application for EU membership and Sweden’s application to join NATO for the first time.
Earlier on Monday, a source told Middle East Eye that during a phone call between Biden and Erdogan, the US president was pleased by Erdogan’s remarks on the resuscitation of the EU process, noting that Biden had played a key role in pressuring the EU to accept Turkey as a member.
The breakthrough for Sweden’s aspirations to join came ahead of a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where members of the defence pact hoped to be able to welcome Sweden as a new member.
But Turkey said last month that this would not happen, citing recent demonstrations by PKK supporters as a sign that Stockholm was not upholding its promises made in the trilateral MOU.