January 24, 2024 - 11:34 AMT
Turkey approves Sweden's NATO membership bid

Turkey's parliament ratified Sweden's NATO membership bid on Tuesday, January 23, clearing the biggest remaining hurdle to expanding the Western military alliance after 20 months of delay, Reuters reports.

Turkey's general assembly, where President Tayyip Erdogan's ruling alliance holds a majority, voted 287-55 to approve the application that Sweden first made in 2022 to bolster its security in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

All NATO members need to approve applications from countries seeking to join the alliance. When Sweden and Finland asked to join in 2022, Turkey raised objections over what it said was the two countries' protection of groups it deems terrorists.

It endorsed Finland's membership in April last year but, along with Hungary, had kept Sweden waiting.

"We support NATO enlargement to improve the alliance's deterrence efforts... We hope Finland and Sweden's attitude towards fighting terrorism sets an example for our other allies," Fuat Oktay, head of parliament's foreign affairs commission and a ruling AK Party member, said during debate.

Erdogan is expected to sign the legislation within days, leaving Hungary - whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin - as the only member state not to have approved Sweden's accession.