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Turkish Parliament unlikely to vote on Sweden’s NATO bid for weeks

Turkey’s parliament is unlikely to hold a full vote on Sweden’s bid to join NATO before mid-January, parliamentary sources told AFP Thursday. Sweden’s accession to the US-led Western alliance was approved by the foreign affairs committee on Tuesday, bringing an end in sight to a 19-month standoff that drew the wrath of Turkey’s Western partners. It must now be voted by the full 600-seat parliament, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling alliance holds the majority. The president would then need to sign it into law. Although Erdogan’s party could call for a special session to discuss the measure, it appears likely it will wait until after parliament’s scheduled return on January 15. The Nordic country, together with its neighbour Finland, abandoned decades of military non-alignment and sought to join NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Turkey and Hungary were the only NATO members to oppose their applications. Turkey eventually relented on Finland, but continued to accuse Sweden of failing to crack down on exiled Kurdish groups that Ankara views as “terrorists”. -‘Fulfil commitments’- Sweden tightened its anti-terrorism legislation in response to Turkish pressure, and Erdogan lifted his objections to Sweden’s application at a NATO summit in July, while pushing for concessions from the United States. Erdogan made Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s application conditional on the US Congress “simultaneously” approving Ankara’s request for 40 F-16 jets and spare parts. Even though the US administration has promised to move forward with the sale, its approval has met resistance from Congress. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan discussed Sweden’s NATO membership in a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, a diplomatic source said, a day after the protocol was greenlighted by the parliament committee. Fidan told Blinken that Turkey now expects the US administration and Congress to “to act in line with the spirit of alliance and to fulfil the commitments made” with regard to the F-16s. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg hailed the parliamentary committee’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid, urging Turkey and fellow holdout Hungary to complete their ratifications “as soon as possible”. As the parliament will be in two-weeks recess, a timetable also “depends on the negotiations with the Americans”, another parliamentary source told AFP.

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