ANKARA, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Turkey’s parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Thursday postponed a vote on Sweden’s candidacy to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), further setbacks for Sweden’s hopes of joining the Western alliance after an 18-month wait. .
Chairman Fuat Oktay said the committee, controlled by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, would hold further consultations and could put the bill back on the agenda next week, but did not set a firm date.
“In order to approve Sweden’s membership in NATO, we need to be fully satisfied by all members of the parliament,” Oktay told reporters after several hours of debate. We will discuss all of this.”
The committee can pass legislation with a simple majority. Oktay added that if necessary and if parliamentary regulations allow, he may ask the Swedish ambassador to explain himself to MPs.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this month that he would try to expedite the ratification process, but added that Sweden was not doing enough against Kurdish militants.
To be ratified, the bill would need committee approval before a full vote in Congress, which could take days or weeks. President Erdogan is then expected to sign the bill to end the process, whose length has frustrated Turkey’s government allies and tested relations with the West.
Sweden and Finland requested NATO membership in May last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the time, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan objected to both requests for protection and a defense trade embargo on the Nordic countries, which Turkey considers terrorists. Turkey supported Finland’s bid in April, but Sweden is left waiting.
Turkey has called on Sweden to take further steps to rein in local members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.
In response, Stockholm introduced a new anti-terrorism bill that would make membership in terrorist organizations illegal, and lifted restrictions on arms exports to Turkey. It says it has maintained some aspects of the agreement signed last year.
Lawmakers are not convinced
Despite comments by Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akkapar outlining the steps taken by Sweden, lawmakers from the ruling AK Party and opposition parties voiced reservations and postponed the vote in an unusual move.
Ali Sahin, a lawmaker from the AK Party, said: “I appreciate the expansion of NATO. But we have to remove some of the controversy in our minds. Sweden is a safe haven for some terrorist organizations. , or it has become heaven.”
“We believe that the steps Sweden has taken so far are worthwhile, but we do not think they are sufficient,” he added.
NATO members Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands also took steps to ease their arms export policies to Turkey during this process, but the White House said it would proceed with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in consultation with the U.S. Congress. Announced.
There is no clear deadline for approval of the F-16 purchase request, but the Turkish government has linked the issue to the Swedish bid. Oktay on Thursday reiterated Erdogan’s view that “if they have a parliament, we have a parliament too.”
Some analysts have suggested that the Turkish parliament could fully ratify the bid before the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on November 28-29.
A senior U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Turkey was “very interested” in completing ratification before the NATO meeting in Brussels, although the call ultimately rests with the Turkish government.
“It’s up to them whether their systems generate consent within that period, but we continue to talk to them about it,” the official said.
The Biden administration has not linked ratification to the F-16 fighter jet sale, but lawmakers have made clear they are unlikely to approve the sale until Turkey ratifies the Nordic nation’s NATO bid, officials said. Ta.
“As an administration, we are working to ensure that both sides can move in a timely manner.”
The postponement comes as the Turkish government is at odds with its Western allies over the Gaza conflict, and its hard-line diplomacy over the Ukraine war has irritated some allies. The Turkish government maintains good relations with Moscow and Kiev and opposes Russian aggression, but also opposes Western sanctions against Russia.
NATO member Hungary has also not ratified Sweden’s membership, but Turkey is seen as the main obstacle to Sweden’s membership.
Later on Thursday, the US ambassador to Hungary said he had been assured by the Hungarian government that Budapest would not be the last city to ratify Sweden’s bid, adding that he was “confident” that Stockholm would soon become a NATO member.
Report by Huseyin Hayatsever. Additional reporting by Simon Lewis and Humeira Pamuk in Washington. Written by Tuva Gumulkuk.Editing: Jonathan Spicer, Christina Fincher, Susan Fenton
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.