Turkey Backs Sweden’s NATO Ascension, Alliance Chief Says

NATO summit Vilnius
Left to right: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. Credit: Jens Stoltenberg / Twitter

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO has claimed that Turkey has given the green light for Sweden to join the alliance after months of diplomatic wrangling over the issue.

According to Stoltenberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will now recommend to his parliament for Turkey to approve Sweden’s NATO ascension bid.

On Thursday, the office of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also said that Budapest would no longer block Sweden’s ambitions to join the alliance.

Turkey to support Sweden’s NATO bid

Last year, Sweden and Finland both submitted applications for NATO membership. This was a significant shift from their long-standing policies of military non-alignment. This shift in stance came in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Erdoğan had previously impeded Sweden’s NATO accession, citing Stockholm’s perceived failure to address Kurdish militants, whom Ankara considers as “terrorists” and a national security threat.

However, Ankara’s position now appears to have changed. Ahead of the NATO summit held in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, the Secretary General of the alliance claimed that President Erdoğan has committed to collaborating closely with the Grand National Assembly, also known as Turkey’s parliament, to ensure the ratification process progresses.

Describing it as a “historic step”, Stoltenberg said that Sweden’s NATO ascension would contribute significantly to the alliance’s strength and security.

“This is good for Sweden, Sweden will become a full member of the alliance. It’s good for Turkey because Turkey is a NATO ally that will benefit from a stronger NATO. And then, of course, it’s good for the whole alliance,” Stoltenberg explained.

Glad to announce that after the meeting I hosted with @RTErdogan & @SwedishPM, President Erdogan has agreed to forward #Sweden’s accession protocol to the Grand National Assembly ASAP & ensure ratification. This is an historic step which makes all #NATO Allies stronger & safer.

— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) July 10, 2023

Could Ankara leverage negotiations to push for EU membership?

Prior to the NATO summit, the Turkish president expressed willingness to support Sweden’s aspirations to join NATO if the European Union initiated membership negotiations with Turkey.

“Turkey has been waiting at the door of the European Union for over 50 years now, and almost all of the NATO member countries are now members of the European Union,” Erdoğan told Turkish reporters in Istanbul.

“I am making this call to these countries that have kept Turkey waiting at the gates of the European Union for more than 50 years.”

“Come and open the way for Turkey’s membership in the European Union. When you pave the way for Turkey, we’ll pave the way for Sweden as we did for Finland,” he continued.

However, Brussels promptly reiterated that NATO membership and EU accession are separate processes. Nonetheless, EU Council president Charles Michel later tweeted that the Union’s relationship with Turkey has been “re-energized.”

Good meeting with President @RTErdogan at #NATOsummit.

Explored opportunities ahead to bring 🇪🇺-🇹🇷 cooperation back to the forefront & re-energise our relations.

EUCO has invited HRVP & @EU_Commission to submit report with a view to proceed in strategic & forward-looking manner

— Charles Michel (@CharlesMichel) July 10, 2023

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