After a year and a half, Turkey says yes to Sweden’s entry into NATO

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By John

The Turkish parliament voted this evening in favor of Sweden joining NATO. Of the 346 parliamentarians who took part in the vote, 287 said yes to the ratification which establishes the enlargement, 55 were against and 4 abstained. The discussion in the Ankara Parliament lasted 4 hours, but once it reached the chamber the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

In recent weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had announced the Turkish green light for Stockholm, defined as “an opening gesture” in exchange for which Turkey awaits “concrete steps in the fight against terrorism”.

And in fact the entire parliamentary group of the president’s AKP party, the nationalist allies of the MHP and the main opposition party, the CHP republicans, voted in favour. The process now involves Erdogan’s signature, little more than a formality.

Stockholm sees the goal of joining NATO after more than a year and a half of negotiations. A wait that has become unnerving for the Swedish government especially in recent months, Erdogan had in fact announced the green light for Sweden during the NATO summit in Vilnius last 22 July. In the end, the pressure from NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and the pressure from the United States had an impact.

In recent years the US Congress has denied Ankara 40 F16 war jets and 40 kits to modernize the Turkish fleet. Erdogan’s green light should now unblock the sale of the aircraft promised by Washington and which ended up at the center of heated controversy between Turkey and the USA, the countries that boast the two largest armies within NATO.

The F16 issue continued to weigh heavily in the months following the Vilnius summit. The protocol arrived at the Foreign Affairs Commission in December, but the discussion of the text took a long time and the green light only arrived on 27 December.

After almost a month, the protocol ended up on the agenda of parliamentary work, at point 42 of today’s agenda. An order of priorities that raised fears that the vote could be postponed until tomorrow. Finally the green light came from Parliament which put an end to a controversy which lasted a year and a half and which initially also concerned Finland.

In May 2022, Erdogan said no to the entry of Sweden and Finland, accusing the two Scandinavian countries of constituting a safe haven for Kurdish separatist terrorists of the PKK and for fleeing coup plotters. Ankara had initially requested the extradition of dozens of those wanted for terrorism, in Sweden and Finland as political refugees, mostly Kurdish PKK separatists who fled during the 80s and 90s and coup plotters of 2016 who fled to Scandinavia.

The governments of the two countries engaged in a back-and-forth on extraditions which then fell silent.

Biden’s promises regarding the F16s and pressure from NATO were enough to convince Erdogan. Sweden and Finland have committed to counteract on their territory activities that Ankara considers to constitute “support for terrorism” and to block sources of financing for the Kurdish separatist activities of the PKK and the Syrian Kurds of the YPG. Both countries have adopted new legislation.

Finland got the green light from Turkey last March, while for Sweden the path was more complicated.

Repeated anti-Turkish demonstrations with PKK flags and several sit-ins during which the Koran was set on fire have resulted in several summonses of the Swedish ambassador to Ankara and slowed down Sweden’s progress.