Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 23 submitted a bill approving Sweden's NATO membership bid to parliament for ratification, his office said, a move welcomed by Stockholm as it clears the way for it to join the Western defence alliance.
Erdoğan pleased his NATO allies at a summit in July by promising to send the legislation to parliament when it reopened on Oct. 1, having previously raised objections over Sweden's alleged harbouring of individuals who Turkey says are members of terrorist groups.
Since parliament reopened, however, Turkish officials have repeatedly said Stockholm needed to take more concrete steps to clamp down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militia before Ankara could ratify its membership bid. The PKK is deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
On Oct. 23, the bill on approving Sweden finally moved forward.
"The Protocol on Sweden's NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey," the presidency said on social media platform X without elaborating.
The Protocol on Sweden's NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye.— Republic of Türkiye Directorate of Communications (@Communications) October 23, 2023
Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the move and said Stockholm was looking forward to becoming a NATO member. "Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the question," Kristersson said on X.
Welcome that President Erdoğan signed Sweden’s ratification protocol to NATO and submitted it to the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye. Parliamentary procedures will now commence. We are looking forward to becoming a member of NATO.— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) October 23, 2023
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the decision, saying he was looking forward to a "speedy vote" in the Turkish parliament and to welcoming Sweden as an ally "very soon".
There is no set timeframe for ratification, however. The bill will be put on the agenda of parliament's foreign affairs commission, which will have to pass it before it can be sent to the general assembly for ratification.
Analysts say the bill is expected to be passed in parliament once it is submitted to the general assembly, but it is unclear when Ankara will schedule the vote.
Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), along with its nationalist and Islamist partners, holds 322 out of the 600 seats in parliament. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has previously voiced support for Sweden's membership.
"Actually if it would be tabled it would pass," said Sinan Ulgen, former diplomat and director of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies.
"Unless Erdoğan takes a negative stance which would impact the AKP vote. Now it is more of a question of when parliament would decide to schedule the vote. Can be quick or maybe not," Ulgen said on X, adding "the decision rests with 1 man."
Actually if it would be tabled it would pass. CHP supports it. Unless Erdogan takes a negative stance which would impact the AKP vote. Now it is more of a question of when Parliament would decide to schedule the vote. Can be quick or maybe not. Again the decision rests with 1 man https://t.co/HtkvM51EIY— Sinan Ulgen (@sinanulgen1) October 23, 2023
Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland's membership was sealed in April, in a historic expansion of the alliance, but Sweden's bid had been held up by Turkey and Hungary.
Turkey, which has NATO's second-biggest army, has long been seeking U.S. congressional approval for a $20 billion sale of F-16 jets and modernisation kits. Erdoğan has previously linked Sweden's NATO bid to U.S. support for its request.