Turkish parliament to debate Sweden's NATO bid

The Turkish parliament's general assembly is scheduled to discuss and vote on Sweden's NATO membership bid on Jan. 23, according to the parliamentary sources as reported by Reuters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (L).

Reuters & Duvar English

The Turkish Parliament's general assembly is set to debate Sweden's NATO membership bid on Jan. 23, three sources from parliament said.

Another source told Agence France-Press (AFP) that the vote could be delayed until Jan. 25.

After likely full parliamentary approval, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to sign it into law, concluding a lengthy process that has frustrated some of Ankara's Western allies.

Sweden and Finland asked to join the military alliance in 2022 after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But NATO member Turkey raised objections over what it said was the two countries' protection of groups that Ankara deems terrorists.

Turkey endorsed Finland's membership bid last April but, along with Hungary, it kept Sweden waiting until it toughened its stance on local members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the European Union and United States also list as a terrorist group.

In response, Stockholm introduced a new anti-terrorism bill that makes being a member of a terrorist organization illegal.

Sweden and NATO members Finland, Canada and the Netherlands also took steps to relax Turkey arms-export policies.

Erdoğan sent Sweden's bid to parliament in October, but has also linked its ratification with U.S. approval of sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

The White House backs the sale, though there is no clear timeframe for the U.S. Congress to approve it and Turkey faces some congressional opposition over delaying NATO enlargement and over its human rights record.

After talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he expected Turkey to ratify Sweden's NATO membership bid "in coming weeks."

The parliament's foreign affairs commission approved the bid last month in the first step of the ratification process.

Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), its nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies, and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) voted in favor of ratification in the commission meeting, while the small Islamist opposition Felicity Party and nationalist opposition Good (İYİ) Party voted against it. Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party was absent during the vote.

MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli signaled that they would approve Sweden's bid after his party's group meeting in the parliament, "During the speeches in the Commission, our friends from MHP supported Sweden with an approach that matches the attitude of the Turkish Presidency. This support will also continue in the General Assembly."

After Turkey, Hungary must also approve Sweden's accession to finalize the bid.