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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Turkish parliamentary panel approves Sweden’s NATO bid

By Ben Hubbard


The foreign affairs committee of Turkey’s Parliament on Tuesday approved Sweden’s bid to join NATO, placing the Nordic country one step closer to joining the military alliance.


The measure must now be approved by the full Parliament, but no date has been set for the vote, and the head of the foreign affairs committee told reporters not to expect it to happen quickly.


Since Sweden applied to join NATO after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, Turkey has repeatedly delayed the process, saying that Sweden, the United States and Canada all needed to meet Turkish demands.


Both Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO, a process that requires unanimous support from the alliance’s 31 member states. Turkey initially blocked them both, and although it has since relented on Finland, paving the way for that country to join NATO in March, Turkey has continued to hold out on Sweden.


Multiple NATO leaders have said that Sweden has done all that is needed to join, and Turkey’s repeated delays in approving Sweden’s entry have exasperated other members of the alliance, who view Turkey as leveraging its position for domestic gain.


The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in addition to arguing that Sweden needs to crack down more on dissidents whom his country considers terrorists, has linked approval of Sweden’s accession to disputes that Turkey has with other NATO members.


From the United States, Turkey wants a $20 billion package of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits for jets that it already has. The Biden administration has said that it supports the sale, but members of Congress have objected, citing Turkey’s human rights record and its stance on Sweden.


Erdogan has also noted that the decision on Sweden lies with the Turkish Parliament, not with him, although his party and its political allies hold a commanding share of votes that could easily pass the measure.


“If you have your Congress, I have my Parliament,” Erdogan told Turkish journalists in comments published Dec. 8. “You say you will take a step in the F-16 issue after passing through Congress. I also have a Parliament.”


He also suggested that both matters be settled at the same time.


“If we are two NATO allies, then do what you have to simultaneously, in solidarity, and our Parliament will take the necessary decision,” he said.


Erdogan has also tried to use Sweden’s NATO bid to pressure Canada, another NATO member, which has imposed export restrictions on optical equipment that Turkey uses in its drones.


“On the issue of drone cameras we wanted from them, Canada is insisting: Sweden, Sweden,” Erdogan said.


On Tuesday, a majority of lawmakers on the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee voted in favor of the measure, meaning that it will be forwarded to the full assembly.


But after Tuesday’s vote, the committee’s head, Fuat Oktay, told reporters that it was up to the Parliament speaker to put the measure on the assembly’s schedule. Oktay added that a speedy vote was not expected.


There is no fixed timeline for any of the steps.


The only other NATO member still to approve Sweden’s accession is Hungary, although Hungarian officials have said that they will follow Turkey’s lead.

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