NATO announced on Monday that Turkey has agreed to membership in NATO for Sweden, ending a year-long standoff after Sweden met Turkey’s demands. The other holdout, Hungary, is expected to follow Turkey’s lead on Swedish membership. The announcement was made on the eve of the NATO summit taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine last year. In April, after meeting Turkey’s concerns, Finland was accepted into NATO by all members while Sweden’s application had been held up by Turkey and Hungary. Relations between Turkey and Sweden have been strained by protesters in Sweden burning Korans.
The announcement came hours after Erdogan tied his support for Sweden in NATO to Turkey’s acceptance in the European Union. (The Hill excerpt):
Speaking to reporters ahead of a major NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Erdoğan said Turkey has “for over 50 years been kept waiting at the door of the European Union.”
“First clear the path to the EU in front of Turkey and then we will clear the path in front of Sweden, just as we did for Finland,” Erdoğan said at the news conference.
Turkey is the only holdout to approving Stockholm’s accession to NATO after Hungary last week said it would not stand in Sweden’s way once Turkey approves. All 31 NATO members must ratify a country for inclusion.
NATO press release detailing Turkey’s diplomatic triumph includes gaining Swedish support for Turkey in the EU:
following the meeting between Türkiye, Sweden, and the NATO Secretary General
1 On 10 July, 2023, President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan of Türkiye, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met at the NATO Summit in Vilnius.
2 Since the last NATO Summit, Sweden and Türkiye have worked closely together to address Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns. As part of that process, Sweden has amended its constitution, changed its laws, significantly expanded its counter- terrorism cooperation against the PKK, and resumed arms exports to Türkiye, all steps set out in the Trilateral Memorandum agreed in 2022.
3 Sweden and Türkiye agree today to continue their cooperation under both the Trilateral Permanent Joint Mechanism established at the Madrid NATO Summit 2022, and under a new bilateral Security Compact that will meet annually at ministerial level and create working groups as appropriate. At the first meeting of this Security Compact, Sweden will present a roadmap as the basis of its continued fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations towards the full implementation of all elements of the Trilateral Memorandum, including article 4. Sweden reiterates that it will not provide support to YPG/PYD, and the organisation described as FETÖ in Türkiye.
4 Both Sweden and Türkiye agreed that counter-terrorism cooperation is a long-term effort, which will continue beyond Sweden’s accession to NATO. Secretary General Stoltenberg also reconfirmed that NATO categorically condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. NATO will be significantly stepping up its work in this area, including by the Secretary General establishing, for the first time at NATO, the post of Special Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism.
5 We commit to the principle that there should be no restrictions, barriers or sanctions to defence trade and investment among Allies. We will work towards eliminating such obstacles.
6 Sweden and Türkiye have also agreed to step up economic cooperation, through the Türkiye-Sweden Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO). Both Türkiye and Sweden will look to maximise opportunities to increase bilateral trade and investments. Sweden will actively support efforts to reinvigorate Türkiye’s EU accession process, including modernisation of the EU-Türkiye Customs Union and visa liberalisation.
7 On this basis, and given the imperatives of the deterrence and defence of the Euro- Atlantic area, Türkiye will transmit the Accession Protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly, and work closely with the Assembly to ensure ratification.
Turkey asserted itself in the Russia-Ukraine war this weekend by releasing several Ukrainian Azov commanders in apparent violation of a prisoner exchange agreement with Russia (Politico EU excerpt):
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine on Saturday bringing home with him five former Azov commanders who had fought in the battle over Mariupol. The Kremlin accused Turkey of violating the prisoner-exchange agreement that was signed last year.
…Upon news of the release, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had not been informed and that Turkey had promised to keep the former prisoners on its home soil.
The move “goes against the terms of existing agreements,”Peskov said. “The conditions of return were violated by both the Turkish and Kyiv sides,” he said.
“Nobody informed us about this. According to the terms of the agreement, these persons were supposed to stay on the territory of Türkiye until the end of the conflict,” Peskov said.
Peskov claimed that NATO pressured Turkey to violate the agreement to demonstrate solidarity with the alliance ahead of the this week’s NATO summit in Vilnius.
Details on the summit can be found at the NATO site.
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