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Turkey parliament's foreign affairs committee approves Sweden's NATO bid

This picture shows a flag of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) hoisted on a pole. (File photo by AFP)

The Turkish parliament's foreign affairs committee has approved Sweden's bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), putting Stockholm one step closer to membership in the US-led Western military alliance.

The parliamentary committee approved the bid on Tuesday after resuming the debate on approving Sweden's bid to join NATO.

"The protocol [on Sweden's NATO accession] passed the committee," opposition CHP party lawmaker Utku Cakirozer, a member of the foreign affairs committee, told AFP after the vote.

After Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine in 2022, Sweden and Finland decided to join the US-led intergovernmental military alliance.

The two countries' requests were readily agreed to by 28 NATO member states. Turkey and Hungary had declined; however, Finland's request was later accepted and Helsinki became the North Atlantic Alliance's 31st member in April.

Sweden's bid has yet to be ratified 19 months after Stockholm applied for NATO membership.

NATO rules state that new members need all the 30 old members' consent to join, and this issue has remained a sticking point between Ankara and Stockholm that was further complicated after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan linked it to the Turks' request to purchase US-manufactured F-16 jetfighters.

Erdogan then upped the ante by securing a pledge from the EU to resurrect the membership talks in exchange for removing its rejection of Sweden's bid to join NATO.

After months of objections, Erdogan agreed at a NATO summit in July to forward Sweden's NATO membership to the Turkish parliament for approval.

In July, Erdogan lifted his objections to Sweden's membership after Stockholm cracked down on Kurdish groups regarded as terrorist outfits by Ankara.

"We see that there is a change in policy in Sweden. We see some decisions taken in courts, albeit few," Fuat Oktay, a lawmaker from Erdogan's ruling AKP party and head of the parliament's foreign affairs committee said in a televised interview on Monday.

The committee's Tuesday approval passes the bid on to a vote by the full parliament floor, where Erdogan's ruling alliance holds the majority of seats.

However, whether and when the full Turkish parliament will approve Sweden's NATO ascension bid remains unclear.

"There is no strong consensus in the parliament on Sweden's NATO membership," Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara office director of the US German Marshall Fund think tank, told AFP, adding, “Sweden’s NATO membership and F-16 sales to Turkey will be handled in coordination to some extent."

"But if [US President Joe] Biden and Erdogan show the necessary will, we can expect the process to be concluded soon," Unluhisarcikli concluded.

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