ANKARA — The Turkish parliament’s foreign relations committee approved Sweden’s membership in NATO on Tuesday, a prerequisite for the issue to be considered in a full parliamentary vote.
The accession protocol will be voted on by the full Parliament once Parliament Speaker Numan Kurtulmus schedules a debate on the issue, although at the time of writing no timetable has been set .
The development comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had previously denied any connection between the two issues, said last week that his country was seeking to simultaneously advance NATO expansion and Turkey’s demand for purchase 40 F-16 fighter jets and approximately 50 modernization kits from the United States.
After being excluded in 2019 from a consortium producing next-generation F-35 fighter jets due to its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, Ankara had sought to spend $20 billion to modernize its military aircraft. . Although the Biden administration publicly approved the sale earlier this year, the State Department has yet to submit a formal notification to Congress for review.
The F-16 sale does not require congressional approval, but U.S. lawmakers have the right to veto the sale within 30 days of notification by the State Department for review.
Some senior members of Congress have threatened to block the sale unless Turkey implements key foreign policy reforms, including distancing itself from Russia and improving its strained ties with Greece, a member of the the European Union.
After delaying a vote on Sweden’s NATO membership last month, the Turkish parliament’s foreign relations committee decided last week to hold the vote following a rare phone call between Erdogan and the president American Joe Biden. Amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which is approaching two years, the Biden administration has come to view NATO expansion as a key foreign policy priority. Turkey and Hungary remain the two holdouts who have so far refused to give Stockholm the green light.
Abandoning their historic non-aligned status, Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two Nordic countries have taken several steps to move the process forward, including lifting de facto military embargoes against Ankara. Finland became a member in April while Sweden’s application has so far been blocked.
Sweden, which Erdogan accuses of harboring groups and individuals he says pose a threat to Turkish national security, also amended its constitution and anti-terrorism law on November 22 in a bid to convince Ankara to abandon his objections.
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