Erdogan signs off on NATO expansion — RT World News

The move leaves Hungary as the latest to refuse to approve Stockholm's request to join the US-led military bloc

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has officially ratified Sweden's application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), finalizing the decision after months of political debate over the Nordic country's stance toward armed Kurdish groups that Ankara considers terrorists.

In a presidential decree published on Thursday, Erdogan signed an earlier decision of the Turkish Parliament approving Sweden's request, about 20 months after the country's initial request. The final instrument of accession will now be sent to Washington for review, as required under the bloc's regulations.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson praised the decision in a social media post, saying it represented a step forward 'Major turning point' to “Sweden’s path to NATO membership.” Foreign Minister Tobias Billström noted this in his post “All that remains is Hungary’s ratification before Sweden becomes a member of NATO.”

Ankara had indicated a number of reservations about Stockholm's efforts to join the bloc, arguing that Sweden harbors members of Kurdish armed groups classified as terrorists under Turkish law. However, after months of negotiations, prominent Turkish lawmaker Fuat Oktay said Sweden had reformed its anti-terrorism laws, cracked down on the financial activities of some groups, convicted one terrorist suspect and extradited another. Previous restrictions on arms sales to Turkey were also reduced, paving the way for ratification.

Erdogan also linked the issue to his country's request to purchase 40 new F-16 fighter jets from the United States, which has also been resolved, with US officials previously saying they expect to get the green light to sell the weapons soon after Ankara ratifies Sweden's NATO request. .

With Turkey's approval, Hungary is now the last remaining member state that has not yet signed the expansion of the US-led military alliance. While Budapest eventually accepted Finland's application to join NATO last year after several delayed votes, it is unclear when it might ratify Sweden's efforts. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the government was open to the move, although the country's parliament has not yet set a date for a vote on ratification of its agenda.

The two Scandinavian countries abandoned their long-standing non-aligned policies after Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine in early 2022, seeing it as a threat to their security. When Finland officially joined the bloc in April 2023, NATO doubled the length of its border with Russia.

Moscow stated that it had no problem with either country until then, but would have to respond if they joined NATO. Russia insists that the bloc's eastward expansion – which began in 1999 – poses a threat to Russian national security and is one of the root causes of the conflict in Ukraine.

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