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Sweden takes another step towards NATO membership

By Suzan Fraser | Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday approved Sweden’s NATO candidacy, bringing the previously non-aligned Nordic country closer to joining the Western military alliance.

Sweden’s accession protocol will now need to be approved by the general assembly of the Turkish parliament for the final stage of the legislative process in Turkey. No date has been set.

NATO member Turkey delayed ratifying Sweden’s membership by more than a year, accusing the country of being too lenient toward groups Ankara views as threats to its security, including Kurdish activists and members of a network that Ankara accuses of being responsible for the failure of accession. putsch in 2016.

The Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee began discussing Sweden’s NATO membership last month. But the meeting was adjourned after lawmakers from Erdogan’s ruling party tabled a motion to postpone it, on the grounds that some issues needed further clarification and that negotiations with Sweden were not sufficiently “matured”.

On Tuesday, the committee resumed its deliberations and a large majority of the committee’s lawmakers voted in favor of Sweden’s application for membership.

Briefing committee members ahead of the vote, Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akcapar cited Sweden’s steps to meet Turkish demands, including lifting restrictions on defense industry sales and changing anti-terrorism laws in a way that “no one could have imagined five or six years ago”. There is.”

“It is unrealistic to expect the Swedish authorities to immediately respond to all our demands. This is a process, and this process requires constant and long-term efforts,” he said, adding that Turkey would continue to monitor Sweden’s progress.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström welcomed the commission’s decision over a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“The next step is for Parliament to vote on the issue. We look forward to becoming a NATO member,” he tweeted.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed the development, saying he counted on Turkey and Hungary “to complete their ratifications as soon as possible”. Swedish membership will strengthen NATO.”

Hungary also blocked Sweden’s candidacy, alleging that Swedish politicians had told “blatant lies” about the state of Hungarian democracy. Hungary has not announced when the country’s ratification might take place.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly linked the ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership to the approval by the US Congress of a Turkish request to purchase 40 new jets. F-16 combat and kits to modernize the existing Turkish fleet.

Erdogan also called on Canada and other NATO allies to respect the lifetime arms embargoes imposed on Turkey.

The White House has supported Turkey’s F-16 request, but Congress opposes military sales to Turkey.

Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military non-alignment to seek protection under the NATO security umbrella, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Finland joined the alliance in April, becoming NATO’s 31st member, after the Turkish parliament ratified the Nordic country’s candidacy.

NATO needs unanimous approval from all existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries that have resisted.

The delays frustrated other NATO allies who quickly agreed to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.

California Daily Newspapers

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