Three months after NATO announced that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to let Sweden become a member of the military organization, little sign has emerged that the Nordic country will be allowed to join its ranks anytime soon.
The issue was expected to be raised Thursday at NATO headquarters where the 31 member countries were holding their second day of talks.
Sweden and its neighbor Finland turned their backs on decades of military non-alignment after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia troops to invade Ukraine in February 2022. Their aim was to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella, and Finland joined in April.
All 31 NATO allies must endorse Sweden’s membership. Turkey and Hungary are dragging their feet. Publicly, Erdogan has said he was blocking because he believes that Sweden has been too soft on Kurdish militants and other groups that he considers to be security threats. Many allies doubt that.
At a NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital in July, Erdogan said he would transmit Sweden’s accession protocol to the Turkish parliament for ratification, the final step for Turkey to endorse its candidature, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We have an agreement in Vilnius where Turkey said clearly that they are ready to ratify,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday, noting that the deal meant “that the president will work with the Grand National Assembly, the parliament, to ensure ratification.”
“It was stated clearly that that should happen as soon as possible, meaning that when the parliament again convened, then this process should start to take place,” he added. “The parliament has just convened a few days ago. Therefore, I expect this to happen.”
Erdogan had relented after the Biden administration signaled it would let Turkey buy 40 new F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits from the United States. Ankara also received assurances from Sweden that it would help revive Turkey’s own quest to join the European Union.