RIGA - It cannot be fully assured that the Turkish Parliament will ratify the protocol on Sweden's accession to NATO any time soon, Gints Jegermanis, a researcher at the Latvian Institute of Foreign Affairs and former Latvian ambassador to Sweden, told LETA.
He noted that over the past year and a half, several things have been tangled together on this issue, for example when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his support for Sweden becoming a NATO member at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, there was quite a lot of optimism. Two days later, however, the Turkish President announced at a press conference that, although he had taken this decision, he would have to wait for the Turkish Parliament to meet for its autumn session.
Jegermanis pointed out that since the NATO Summit in Vilnius various "unpleasant events" had taken place. In both Denmark and Sweden, Koran burnings were organized outside the embassies of various countries. In his view, this has created a completely new situation: whereas Sweden used to be seen as a tolerant country, it is now the target of a massive disinformation campaign, in which Russia is also involved.
"The aim is to denigrate Sweden in every possible way by trying to link the provocations and excesses of individual extremists to support of the Swedish government and parliament, which is, of course, completely absurd. This has led to a number of different protests in Islamic countries," said the former Latvian ambassador to Sweden.
He noted that protesters against the burning of the Koran stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, in the summer. The embassy was also set on fire. There have also been rather violent protests in several countries around the world. Various radical and non-radical groups have come out strongly against the Swedes. For example, the Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei has declared that the Swedish government is preparing itself for war against the Muslim world. He has also said that Sweden is increasingly becoming a 'legitimate target', which is in fact a call to attack Swedish citizens and national interests abroad.
The radical Iraqi group Ashab al-Kahf has made similar calls for attacks and killings against Swedes and against Swedish interests. Last week, two Swedish football fans were shot dead and another injured in Brussels.
"This is a completely new situation, with Swedish interests being threatened around the world, with threats being made against Swedes. There have been incidents of this kind in Sweden itself. It should be added that last summer, Turkey accused both Sweden and Finland of a "cavalier attitude" towards terrorists. Although Sweden and Finland have changed their laws, the Turkish President and other Turkish officials have reproached them for not taking sufficient steps," Jegermanis said.
He pointed out that this summer, after Erdogan announced his support for Sweden's entry into NATO, there were critical voices in Turkey, both in Erdogan's party and in other parliamentary parties, saying that Sweden had no place in NATO.
"We should wait a little longer and see how the Turkish Parliament reacts to this. It remains to be seen how the resistance by Hungary to this will also end. When Erdogan announced his decision to send the protocol on Sweden's accession to NATO to parliament for ratification, the opposition party in the Hungarian Parliament also called for an emergency meeting to vote on Sweden's NATO membership," the expert said.
A researcher pointed out that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party is taking its time. The earliest the next Hungarian parliamentary session could take place is therefore November 6. Jegermanis stressed that Erdogan's decision is a positive step, but it should be remembered that the issue of Sweden's NATO membership has so far been linked to a number of "seemingly" unrelated issues.
"When Erdogan started opposing Finland's and Sweden's NATO membership, many experts argued that one of Turkey's hidden reasons was to get support from the US for F-16 fighter jets, which the US had denied Turkey. At the time, both Finland and Sweden, like many other countries, decided not to sell arms to Turkey. This has changed over the year, as both Finland and Sweden have lifted the ban on arms sales to Turkey. In the case of the Americans, this decision has not yet been taken. There may be bargaining for a while yet, as the US Congress is currently paralysed. At the same time, we can hope that if the Turkish President has already taken such a decision, the Turkish Parliament would be ready to support it," the expert said.
Asked what would happen if Hungary and Turkey refused to ratify the protocol, Jegermanis admitted that the bargaining could continue. In his view, Sweden will eventually become a NATO member. Even now, Sweden participates in various NATO formats and is invited to the table with the other members, but until this decision is formally resolved, it does not all work to the end.
The AFP news agency reports that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey officially submitted Sweden's NATO membership application to parliament on Monday, his office said, bringing closer the possible end of a 17-month diplomatic standoff.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members yet to ratify Sweden's membership request, which came after Stockholm dropped its long-standing policy of non-alignment last year after Russia launched its war on Ukraine.
Erdogan agreed at a NATO summit in Vilnius in July to put the ratification of Sweden's membership before the Turkish parliament as pressure grew on Ankara from partners.
"Sweden's NATO membership protocol was signed on October 23, 2023, by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sent to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey," the presidency posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called the announcement "encouraging news".
"Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the issue," Kristersson said, also in a post on X.
"We look forward to becoming a NATO member," he added.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday urged a quick vote by Turkey's parliament to approve Sweden's membership.
"I welcome President Erdogan's signature of the accession protocol for Sweden and its referral to the Grand National Assembly. I look forward to a speedy vote to ratify, and to welcoming Sweden as a full NATO ally very soon," he said in a statement.
Sweden's Nordic neighbor Finland, which applied to join NATO at the same time, was granted membership in April.
Erdogan has put pressure on Sweden to take measures over Koran burnings at protests in the country that have angered many in Muslim countries.
Ankara also says Sweden is harboring outlawed Kurdish militants, and has demanded their extradition.