Turkey agreed Monday to admit Sweden into NATO, according to the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
President Erdogan has agreed to forward the Accession Protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly as soon as possible and work closely with the assembly to ensure ratification,”said Stoltenberg amid surprise remark safter meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
The NATO chief added, “This is a historic day.”
The decision came a day before this year’s NATO Summit was set to begin in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Earlier Monday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said his country could approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO if the European Union’s member nations “open the way” for Turkey to join the EU.
Turkey is a candidate to join the EU, but its membership bid has been stalled due to the country’s backsliding from democracy as well as disputes with EU-member Cyprus.
Sweden ended a 200-year policy of neutrality when it applied to join NATO along with neighbor Finland in May, 2022 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of that year.
However, while Finland officially joined the world’s largest military alliance in April of this year, Sweden’s membership was held up by Turkey over a dispute surrounding the treatment of anti-Islam activists and pro-Kurdish groups inside Sweden.
A nation’s membership application must be approved unanimously, and Turkey was the last of NATO’s then-30 nations to ratify Finland’s membership.
Hungary also has yet to ratify Sweden’s bid. Though a long-delayed parliamentary vote on Sweden’s membership is not set to occur until Hungarian lawmakers’ autumn legislative session, Billström added that he expects Hungary to approve Sweden’s NATO bid before Turkey does.
President Biden met with Kristersson last week at the White House ahead of the NATO Summit.
“The United States fully, fully, fully supports Sweden’s membership in NATO,” Biden said during a photo op with the Prime Minister. “Sweden is going to make our alliance stronger and has the same values set that we have in NATO.”