Turkey Relents on Sweden's NATO Membership Ahead of Summit

Turkey has agreed to allow Sweden into NATO, according to the alliance’s secretary general, putting an end to months of opposition that had caused tension among Western governments attempting to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“President Erdogan has agreed to present the Accession Protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly as soon as possible and collaborate closely with the assembly to ensure ratification,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, in unexpected remarks on Monday after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

Stoltenberg added, “This is a significant day,” as world leaders gathered on Monday in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, ahead of a NATO summit.

Earlier on Monday, Erdogan had linked Sweden’s bid for NATO membership to Turkey’s longstanding and unsuccessful attempt to join the European Union, creating a new obstacle for Western efforts to expand the transatlantic alliance and project unity during Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.

Erdogan had previously expressed his opposition to Sweden’s membership for various reasons, including Stockholm’s refusal to extradite individuals wanted by Turkey, a NATO member, and its tolerance of anti-Erdogan protests.

However, Erdogan’s connection between Swedish NATO membership and European Union accession, which he first mentioned in a phone call with President Biden on Sunday, appeared to be a new condition. This raised questions about whether the Turkish leader was trying to disrupt the NATO Summit in Lithuania on Monday or simply seeking to obtain as many concessions as possible from Western allies before approving Sweden’s bid.

“We want our promises to be fulfilled,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul before leaving for the summit. “First, clear the path for Turkey in the European Union, then let’s clear the path for Sweden, just as we did for Finland,” he said.

He added that Turkey has been waiting at the EU's door for 50 years.

By late Monday, Erdogan’s demands and his unexpected decision to relent on Sweden’s NATO bid ensured that Turkey remained at the center of the conversation as Western allies met to discuss other critical issues related to Russia’s invasion. Erdogan has consistently taken advantage of opportunities to present his government as an independent, albeit unpredictable, power broker with global influence.

“Asli Aydintasbas, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said, “Erdogan likes to keep people off balance.”

The European Union dismissed the idea of linking Sweden’s NATO bid to EU enlargement. Dana Spinant, a spokesperson for the European Commission, said on Monday, “You cannot connect the two processes.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz echoed this sentiment, stating that there is no reason to consider them as interconnected issues.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council stated that the United States had always supported Turkey’s aspirations to join the EU and continues to do so. They added that while Turkey’s membership and process were between the EU and Turkey, the focus of the US was on Sweden, which is ready to join the NATO alliance.

The agreement announced late on Monday comes after months of obstruction by Erdogan, who won a closely contested election in May, extending his rule into a third decade.

Immediately following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Finland and Sweden abandoned their long-standing military nonalignment to seek security within NATO. However, they faced opposition from Turkey. Joining NATO requires unanimous approval from member countries.

A year ago, at the NATO meeting in Madrid, Erdogan withdrew his opposition to Finnish and Swedish membership, stealing the spotlight and raising hopes for a swift accession process.

However, the deal quickly soured, with Turkey continuing to crit

icize Sweden for its refusal to extradite Kurds accused of being militants, and Hungary, an ally of Ankara, also expressing reservations.
طلحة عبد الكريم
By : طلحة عبد الكريم
مدير و محرر مدونة الموقع التقني.