Blinken says convinced of Sweden’s NATO membership progress after Ankara visit

ANKARA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday he was convinced that there would be progress on Sweden’s NATO membership bid after talks with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan submitted the bill ratifying Sweden’s membership of the NATO military alliance to parliament on Monday after delaying the step for months.

The bill must be approved by parliament’s foreign affairs committee before a vote by the full general assembly. Erdogan would then sign it into law.

“I’m convinced that we’ll see forward movement on that,” Blinken told reporters at the airport before leaving Ankara, when he was asked whether Turkey has given any assurances that it will back Sweden’s NATO membership.

Blinken said that the U.S. was very encouraged by the fact that Erdogan submitted the ratification protocol to parliament, adding that there was “a shared commitment” by Ankara and Washington to make sure that Sweden joins the alliance.

“I would expect that we’ll see that come to fruition,” he said.

Long-neutral Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year to bolster their security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland’s membership was sealed in April, but Sweden’s bid had been held up by Turkey and Hungary.

The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee chair said last week that they will not speed up ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership, but over the weekend, Erdogan said he would try to facilitate it.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Writing by Huseyin Hayatsever, Editing by Ece Toksabay and Tomasz Janowski)