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Sweden set to join US-led NATO as Hungary approves bid

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Parliament in Budapest on February 26, ,2024. (Photo by AP)

Hungary's parliament has approved Sweden's bid to join North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), clearing the last obstacle before the Nordic country becomes a member of the US-led Western military alliance.

The parliament overwhelmingly approved Sweden’s bid on Monday, after nearly two years of negotiations.

Hungary’s speaker of parliament and president are now expected to sign the ratification within a few days.

The vote followed a visit by Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Friday, during which the two countries inked an arms deal.

"Sweden is leaving 200 years of neutrality and military non-alignment behind," Kristersson told a press conference, adding, "We are joining NATO in order to defend what we are and everything we believe in even better. We are defending our freedom, our democracy and our values, together with others."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the Hungarian ratification in a post on X, saying "Sweden's membership will make us all stronger and safer.”

Sweden’s accession will bring to 32 the total number of NATO member countries.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO accession in 2022 following the eruption of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Finland's NATO membership was green-lighted by all NATO members in April last year. But Sweden's application was blocked by Turkey and Hungary who raised objections.

Turkey’s objections initially focused on the Nordic country’s support for elements linked to the so-called Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) armed group, as well as the movement of US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Ankara accuses of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt.

Last month, Ankara approved Sweden’s NATO membership bid as Stockholm reiterated that it wouldn’t support Kurdish opposition groups that are considered terrorist outfits by Ankara.

This comes amid Russia's repeated warnings against the US-led alliance’s expansion, saying that NATO leaders have betrayed a promise not to expand the body after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has railed against the US for being behind NATO's eastward drive, especially its courting of ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia.

Moscow launched the military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022, with Putin saying that the “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas was necessary to “defend people” against Western aggression and its expansionist policy.

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