The Turkish parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee delayed a vote on Sweden’s NATO membership bid on Thursday, in a rare move putting off enlarging the Western alliance after 18 months of waiting in which Ankara demanded terrorism-related concessions from Stockholm, Reuters reported.
Chairman Fuat Oktay said the committee, which is controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), will hold further talks and may bring the bill back on its agenda next week, but he did not set a clear timeline.
“For all of our lawmakers to approve Sweden’s NATO membership, they need to be fully convinced. We will discuss all this in our [next] committee meeting [on the issue],” Oktay said after hours of debate.
The committee can pass bills by a simple majority. It may invite the Swedish ambassador to brief lawmakers if needed and if parliament’s regulations allow it, Oktay added.
Sweden and Finland requested to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in May of last year in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Erdoğan raised objections at the time to both requests over what he said was the Nordic nations’ protection of those Turkey deems terrorists, and over their defense trade embargoes. Turkey endorsed Finland’s bid in April but has kept Sweden waiting.
While NATO member Hungary has also not ratified Sweden’s membership, Turkey is seen as the main roadblock to adding Sweden to the military alliance and bolstering its defenses in the Baltic Sea region.