Türkiye Delays Sweden's NATO Membership Decision, Security Concerns Linger

Turkey postpones Sweden's NATO membership decision citing security concerns, while NATO foreign ministers' meeting approaches.

Nov 25, 2023 - 16:38
Nov 26, 2023 - 19:34
Türkiye Delays Sweden's NATO Membership Decision, Security Concerns Linger
Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on prior to meeting ahead of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on Monday, July 23, 2023 (PHOTO CREDIT: Yves Herman, Pool Photo via AP, File)

The Turkish Parliament's foreign affairs committee reportedly initiated discussions on Sweden's NATO membership application but decided to postpone any decision. This delay was prompted by the need for further clarification and progress in negotiations with Sweden. Committee chairman Fuat Oktay even suggested the possibility of inviting Sweden's ambassador to the next session to address Turkey's security concerns.

Initially, Turkey had concerns regarding Sweden's approach to security threats, such as Kurdish militants and protests. However, Turkey softened its stance after Sweden pledged to cooperate on counterterrorism and support Turkey's European Union (EU) bid. In response to Turkey's worries, NATO appointed a counterterrorism coordinator.

NATO expansion hinges on unanimous approval from member states, and Turkey and Hungary have been stalling Sweden's bid. Hungary has accused Swedish politicians of making false statements about Hungary's democracy.

It's important to note that both Turkish and U.S. officials have emphasized that any deals related to fighter planes are separate from Sweden's NATO membership.

In a related development, Turkey has informed NATO that Sweden's membership won't be ratified in time for the planned accession ceremony at the upcoming alliance foreign ministers' meeting next week, according to sources. Turkey's concerns regarding Sweden's alleged protection of individuals considered terrorists and defense trade embargoes have contributed to the delay in Sweden's NATO membership.

The Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission is expected to resume discussions on Sweden's bid soon. Turkey has specifically requested that Sweden address its concerns regarding the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by the EU and the US. In response, Sweden introduced an anti-terrorism bill and lifted arms export restrictions on Turkey. However, the prolonged ratification process has strained Turkey's relationships with Western allies.

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