By Huseyin Hayatsever
ANKARA (Reuters) – The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission 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 terror-related concessions from Stockholm.
Chairman Fuat Oktay said the commission, which is controlled by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, 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 of these in our (next) commission meeting (on the issue),” Oktay said after hours of debate.
The commission 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.
Erdogan 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 defence 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 defences in the Baltic Sea region.
(Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)