Turkey’s Parliament to Discuss Sweden’s NATO Bid, Still in Limbo

The foreign affairs committee of Turkey’s Parliament was scheduled on Tuesday to resume talks on Sweden’s bid to join NATO, a process that Turkish officials have been slow walking for months.

Yet there were no indications that Tuesday’s discussion would significantly advance the process, which Turkey has repeatedly delayed, saying that Sweden, the United States and Canada all needed to meet Turkish demands.

Both Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO, a process that requires unanimous support from the alliance’s 31 member states, last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey initially blocked them both, and although it has since relented on Finland, paving the way for that country to join NATO in March, Turkey has continued to hold out on Sweden.

Multiple NATO leaders have said that Sweden has done all that is needed to join, and Turkey’s repeated delays in approving Sweden’s entry have exasperated other members of the alliance, who view Turkey as leveraging its position for domestic gain.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in addition to arguing that Sweden needs to crack down more on dissidents whom his country considers terrorists, has linked approval of Sweden’s accession to disputes that Turkey has with other NATO members.

From the United States, Turkey wants a $20 billion package of American-made F-16 fighter jets and upgrade kits for jets that it already has. The Biden administration has said that it supports the sale, but members of Congress have objected, citing Turkey’s human rights record and its stance on Sweden.

Mr. Erdogan has also noted that the decision on Sweden lies with the Turkish Parliament, not with him, although his party and its political allies hold a commanding share of votes that could easily pass the measure.

“If you have your Congress, I have my Parliament,” Mr. Erdogan told Turkish journalists in comments published on Dec. 8. “You say you will take a step in the F-16 issue after passing through Congress. I also have a Parliament.”

He also suggested that both matters be settled at the same time.

“If we are two NATO allies, then do what you have to simultaneously, in solidarity, and our Parliament will take the necessary decision,” he said.

Mr. Erdogan has also tried to use Sweden’s NATO bid to pressure Canada, another NATO member, which has imposed export restrictions on optical equipment that Turkey uses in its drones.

“On the issue of drone cameras we wanted from them, Canada is insisting: Sweden, Sweden,” Mr. Erdogan said.

It remains unclear whether enough progress has been made in private discussions between Turkey, Canada and the United States to persuade Mr. Erdogan to push his Parliament to approve Sweden’s NATO bid.

For the measure to move forward, the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee must approve it, and it must then be scheduled for a full parliamentary vote. The committee has discussed the issue before. But there is no fixed timeline for any of the steps.

The only other NATO member still to approve Sweden’s accession is Hungary, although Hungarian officials have said that they will follow Turkey’s lead.

Safak Timur contributed reporting from Istanbul.

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