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Turkish parliament debates Sweden’s NATO bid

Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday opened a debate on Sweden’s membership of NATO after more than a year of delays that frayed ties with Western allies. Lawmakers were expected to overwhelmingly approve the Nordic nation’s bid to become the 32nd member of the alliance after it won the public backing of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A ratification vote by the full house was expected later Tuesday. Turkey’s ratification would leave Hungary as the last holdout in an accession process that Sweden and Finland began in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. Turkey forced the Nordic countries to split up their applications after finding fault with Sweden and approving Finland after a few rounds of talks. Finland’s membership last April doubled the length of NATO’s border with Russia and boosted the defences of three tiny Baltic nations that joined the bloc following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Sweden and Finland pursued a policy of military non-alignment during the Cold War era between the Soviet Union and the West. But the Ukraine war upturned geopolitical calculations and forced the two to seek the nuclear protection afforded by the world’s most powerful defence organisation. Hungary has followed Turkey’s lead throughout the NATO accession process and was expected to approve Sweden’s without significant resistance. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday invited his Swedish counterpart to Budapest to discuss the bid. But hints emerged on Tuesday of strains between Stockholm and Budapest. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said he saw “no reason” to negotiate with Hungary about Stockholm’s NATO candidacy “at this point”. Orban and Erdogan have maintained a good rapport with Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the Ukraine war. NATO leaders had feared that the Kremlin was trying to use Orban and Erdogan to seed divisions in the West. The bloc’s commanders have cast the latest round of expansion as a show of Western resolve in the face of Russian aggression.

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