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Turkish parliament approves Sweden’s NATO membership bid

The Turkish parliament voted Tuesday to approve Sweden’s NATO membership bid, bringing the Nordic country one step closer to joining the military alliance after months of delays.

Of the 346 members of parliament who voted, 287 were in favor of Sweden’s accession and 55 voted to reject it. Four others abstained from voting.

The vote was the second step of Turkey’s ratification process after the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission approved the bid last month. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can now sign the protocol into law.

The outcome on Tuesday cleared a significant hurdle for the Nordic country’s accession into the military alliance, with Hungary now set to be the only member state that has not yet ratified Sweden’s accession.

But Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban on Wednesday told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Hungary’s government supports Sweden’s bid for accession.

“I reaffirmed that the Hungarian government supports the NATO membership of Sweden,” Orban wrote on X. Stoltenberg also posted on X, saying he welcomed Orban’s “clear support” for Sweden’s membership bid.

On Tuesday, Orban said he had invited his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson to visit Hungary to negotiate the terms of Sweden’s accession.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier that year. Finland joined NATO in April 2023, doubling the alliance’s border with Russia, but Sweden has faced numerous delays in its path to accession.

Erdogan initially objected to Sweden’s membership bid, accusing Swedish officials of being too lenient on militant groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Since applying, Sweden has tightened its anti-terror legislation and agreed to work more closely with Turkey on security concerns.

Erdogan’s approval of Sweden’s accession bid also rides on a commitment by the United States, with the Turkish president signaling that he won’t sign the protocol into law unless the US approves the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin said on Tuesday that Congress, however, is waiting to see the accession documents completed before moving forward on the matter.

Following Tuesday’s Turkish parliamentary vote, Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson said Sweden was “one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO.”

The US Ambassador to Turkey Jeffry Flake reiterated the sentiment in a post on X, saying “Sweden’s accession to NATO is a critical step in strengthening the alliance” and that he “greatly appreciate the Turkish’s parliament’s decision to approve Sweden’s entry into NATO.”

The German government welcomed the outcome of the Turkish parliamentary vote. The federal government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement that Finland’s accession last April and Sweden’s “forthcoming accession” were a “direct reaction to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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