Turkey finally agrees to support Sweden’s NATO membership bid after more than year of holding-up process

VILNIUS — In a surprising turn of events on the eve of the NATO summit, Turkey has agreed to back Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance after more than a year of holding-up the bid in search of political concessions, according to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. This announcement marks a significant departure from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s previous stance that Sweden had not fulfilled the criteria of the tripartite agreement signed between Turkey, Sweden, and Finland last summer.

The primary issue being Sweden’s unwillingness to deport political activists and journalists Erdogan’s government considers “terrorists”.

The day before the abrupt position change, Erdogan insisted that Sweden could only join NATO after Turkey’s acceptance into the European Union.

During a news conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, after a meeting with Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Stoltenberg revealed that Erdogan had agreed to forward the accession protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly for ratification as soon as possible. However, Stoltenberg did not provide a specific timeline for when the document would be moved forward to the Turkish Parliament, which must then vote to approve it. Hungary, another NATO member, has also not yet voted on Sweden’s membership but has expressed that it will not be the last to ratify Sweden’s bid.

When asked about the expected timeline for Sweden’s official NATO membership, Stoltenberg deferred to Turkey, stating that it would be up to the Turkish Parliament to make the announcement. He emphasized that the recent development was a result of a year of negotiations and chose to focus on the significance of this “historic day.”

In addition to the agreement on Sweden’s NATO bid, further commitments were made between the two countries during the meeting. They agreed to continue cooperation on counter-terrorism efforts, and NATO will establish a new Special Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism role. The statement from NATO also highlighted plans to intensify economic cooperation between Sweden and Turkey. Moreover, Sweden expressed active support for revitalizing Turkey’s EU accession process.

US President Joe Biden, scheduled to meet with Erdogan during the NATO summit, welcomed the Turkish president’s commitment to swift ratification of the Accession Protocol for Sweden. Biden expressed his readiness to collaborate with Erdogan and Turkey in enhancing defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area.

The news of Turkey’s backing for Sweden’s NATO membership bid represents a significant victory for President Biden, who remained optimistic about Sweden’s inclusion in NATO despite Turkish opposition. In an exclusive interview with CNN before the summit, Biden expressed confidence that Sweden would eventually join the alliance.

“Turkey is looking for modernization of F-16 aircraft. And [Prime Minister Kyriakos] Mitsotakis in Greece is also looking for some help,” Biden said. “And so, what I’m trying to, quite frankly, put together is a little bit of a consortium here, where we’re strengthening NATO in terms of military capacity of both Greece as well as Turkey, and allow Sweden to come in. But it’s in play. It’s not done.”