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Here’s what you need to know about Turkey’s decision to go ahead with Sweden’s bid to join NATO – Magazine Creations

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Sweden moved closer to joining NATO on Tuesday after the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee gave the green light to a protocol for the Nordic country’s entry into the military alliance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew his objection to Sweden’s membership during a NATO meeting in July, but it took him several months to send the bill to parliament for ratification and weeks for the parliamentary committee to give its consent.

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The long-delayed protocol must be approved by the plenary of the general assembly, and it remains to be seen how quickly the matter will be taken off the floor.

Sweden and Finland abandoned decades of neutrality and sought NATO membership amid heightened security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Finland became NATO’s 31st member earlier this year after the Turkish parliament endorsed her candidacy.

Hungary, Sweden’s only other NATO commitment, has not announced when the country’s ratification might take place.

Here’s a look at the issues that delayed Sweden’s NATO membership, why Turkey finally agreed to the offer, and what to expect next:

WHY WAS TURKEY DELAYED TO APPROVE SWEDEN’S NATO OFFER?

Turkey’s opposition to Sweden joining NATO stemmed from its belief that the Scandinavian country has been too soft on supporters of Kurdish militants and other groups in Sweden that Ankara views as security threats. These include people linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a 39-year insurgency in Turkey, and people with alleged links to a 2016 coup attempt against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey appears ready to allow Sweden to join the NATO bloc.

Turkey, Sweden and Finland reached an agreement last year to address Ankara’s security concerns, and Sweden has since moved to tighten anti-terror laws, making support for extremist groups punishable by up to eight years in prison.

But a series of anti-Turkey and anti-Islam protests in Stockholm, some of which involved the burning of the Koran, also angered Erdogan’s government and Turkish public opinion. Although these demonstrations were condemned by the Swedish government, the Turkish government criticized Sweden — which has laws protecting free speech — for allowing displays of anti-Muslim sentiment.

WHAT MADE TURKEY LIKE HER OBJECTIONS?

While Sweden strengthened its anti-terrorism laws to address Ankara’s security concerns, NATO agreed to create a special counter-terrorism coordinator and appointed Assistant Secretary-General Tom Goffus to the post.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the alliance’s summit in July that Sweden had agreed to “actively support efforts to revitalize Turkey’s EU accession process.” Sweden has announced that it will pursue improved customs arrangements and take steps to implement European visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

Turkey’s EU accession talks stalled in 2018 due to the country’s democratic backsliding and poor human rights record.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly linked Sweden’s NATO membership to Ankara’s efforts to buy US-made F-16 fighter jets and also called on Canada and other NATO allies to lift arms embargoes on Turkey .

During Tuesday’s parliamentary committee debate, opposition lawmaker Oguz Kaan Salici questioned whether the government had received assurances from the United States regarding the sale of the F-16s.

US President Joe Biden’s administration supports Turkey’s request for F-16s, but in the US Congress there is strong opposition to selling weapons to Turkey. Turkey wants to buy 40 new F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits for its existing fleet.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Approval by the parliamentary committee paves the way for Sweden’s accession protocol to be discussed and ratified by the general assembly. It will then have to be signed by Erdogan to take effect.

It was unclear when the full house would debate the bill.

Erdogan’s ruling party and its allies have a majority in the 600-seat parliament. However, Erdogan said the decision rested with lawmakers. His ruling party’s nationalist allies remain uneasy with Sweden’s inclusion and accuse NATO members of indifference to the PKK’s threat to Turkey.

This week, Kurdish fighters attempted to infiltrate a Turkish base in northern Iraq, killing 12 soldiers in two days of fighting.

Islamist parties, frustrated by what they see as Western nations’ silence on Israel’s military actions in Gaza, may vote against the bill.

WHAT ABOUT HUNGARY?

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party — led by populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is widely seen as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s only allies in the EU — has stalled Sweden’s NATO membership from July 2022, claiming Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the state of Hungary’s democracy.

However, neither Orban nor his senior officials have indicated what kind of redress they are demanding from Stockholm to assuage their reservations about Sweden joining the military alliance.

Some critics have claimed that Hungary is using its potential veto on Sweden’s accession as a tool to leverage concessions from the European Union, which has frozen billions in funds in Budapest over concerns about minority rights and the rule of law.

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Hungarian officials have repeatedly said their country will not be the last NATO member to back Sweden’s bid. But Ankara’s move toward ratification suggests time for further delays may be running out.

Some opposition politicians in Hungary — who supported immediate approval of Sweden’s bid — believe Orban’s party is following Ankara’s timetable and will vote for approval once it is clear that Turkey is imminent.

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