Dec 26, 2023 - World

Sweden nearer to NATO membership after Turkish panel vote

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands next to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

The Turkish Parliament's foreign affairs committee approved Sweden's bid to join NATO on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The vote that brings Sweden closer to achieving NATO membership comes after a series of delays in its attempt to become part of the alliance, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's initial refusal to accept Sweden's bid.

  • A country's admission into NATO must be approved unanimously by current NATO countries, and Turkey had stood in Sweden's way.

What they're saying: Tobias Billström, Swedish Foreign Minister, in a post to X welcomed Turkey's approval of the country's NATO membership application.

  • "The next step is for parliament to vote on the issue. We look forward to becoming a member of NATO," Billström said.

State of play: Sweden formally applied to join NATO in May 2022, along with Finland, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

  • Erdoğan claimed that Sweden had harbored militants who Turkey views as terrorists, and he insisted Stockholm lift a ban on arms exports to Ankara, Axios' Dave Lawler notes.
  • However, after over a year of opposition, Erdoğan agreed to support Sweden's bid for NATO membership in July.

Separately, Hungary has also stalled Sweden's attempts to join NATO, but Finland became the alliance's 31st member in April.

Zoom out: Public support for NATO membership in the Nordic countries shot up virtually overnight after Russia invaded Ukraine, with a strong majority in both countries favoring joining the alliance, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

Go deeper: Why NATO formed, why Finland joined and why Sweden wants to join

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