Turkey ratifies Sweden’s Nato membership after more than a year of delays

Turkish politicians during the voting session on the bill in Ankara
Turkish politicians during the voting session on the bill in Ankara - Metin Aktas /Anadolu via Getty Images

Turkey’s parliament has ratified Sweden’s Nato membership after more than a year of delays that have hampered Western efforts to show resolve in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Lawmakers voted 287-55 in favour of the Nordic nation’s bid to become the 32nd member of the US-led alliance, leaving Nato member Hungary as the last holdout in the accession process.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish leader, is expected to sign Sweden’s ratification document and conclude Ankara’s role in the protracted saga in the coming days.

Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s prime minister, welcomed the move and posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO.”

Turkey’s green light leaves Hungary as the last holdout in an accession process that Sweden and Finland began in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Ankara forced the northern neighbours to split up their applications after finding fault with Sweden and approving Finland after a few rounds of talks.

Finland’s membership last April doubled the length of Nato’s border with Russia and boosted the defences of three tiny Baltic nations that joined the bloc following the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Hungary has followed Turkey’s lead throughout the Nato accession process and was expected to approve Sweden’s without significant resistance.

Members of the Patriotic Party hold banners calling for MPs to say no to Nato and Sweden's membership in Istanbul, Turkey
Members of the Patriotic Party hold banners calling for MPs to say no to Nato and Sweden's membership in Istanbul, Turkey - ERDEM SAHIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

On Tuesday, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, invited his Swedish counterpart to Budapest to discuss the bid.

But hints emerged of strains between Stockholm and Budapest.

Tobias Billstrom, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, said he saw “no reason” to negotiate with Hungary about Stockholm’s Nato candidacy “at this point”.

Mr Orban and Mr Erdoğan have maintained a good rapport with Russian president Vladimir Putin throughout the Ukraine war.

Mr Erdogan’s objections to Sweden’s bid initially focused on Stockholm’s perceived acceptance of Kurdish groups that Ankara views as “terrorist”.

Sweden responded by tightening its anti-terrorism legislation and taking other security steps demanded by Erdogan.

But Mr Erdogan then turned his gaze on an unmet US pledge to deliver a batch of F-16 fighter jets that has met resistance in Congress because of Turkey’s perceived backsliding on human rights and standoffs with fellow Nato member Greece.

Turkey also wants Canada to follow through on its promise to lift a ban on the sale of a key component used for making combat drones.

Turkish opposition lawmaker Cengiz Candar said during Tuesday’s ratification debate that Turkey’s leaders had “blackmailed” their Western partners during the drawn-out negotiation process.

“Turkey violated three pillars of foreign policy: predictability, credibility and consistency,” he said before voting for the bid.

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