President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Monday signed and sent to Parliament a measure approving Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance, according tofrom his office.
It was not immediately clear why Mr. Erdogan, who had refused to officially endorse Sweden’s NATO bid for many months, suddenly decided to back it now, nor when Parliament would vote on it. Parliamentary approval is the final step in the process.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland, which respectively have maritime and land borders with Russia, applied to join NATO, a process that is subject to approval by all of the alliance’s members.
Mr. Erdogan initially refused to back either of them, but later changed his stance on Finland, paving the way for it to join NATO in April. But he continued to hold out on Sweden, accusing it of not doing enough to crack down on Turkish separatists and other Turkish dissidents in Sweden that Turkey considers terrorists.
It remains unclear how swiftly the issue will move through Parliament, where Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and its political allies hold a majority. The measure must first be taken by up the foreign affairs committee, then the full house. In the case of Finland, Turkish lawmakers approved a similar protocol 13 days after Mr. Erdogan submitted it.
Mr. Erdogan’s stance on Sweden has flabbergasted other NATO members, who have privately accused him of using the alliance’s rules for domestic political gains.
In July, Mr. Erdogan said that Turkey should be allowed to join the European Union, a process that has been effectively frozen for years, before Sweden joined NATO, even though the two organizations are unrelated.
Then, at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, shortly after, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, announced that Turkey had agreed to approve Sweden’s membership bid, a move that NATO leaders, including President Biden, said would strengthen the alliance. The alliancethat said Turkey had agreed to submit the issue to Parliament and work with it “to ensure ratification.”
But two days later, Mr. Erdogan dashed hopes for a quick process, saying that Sweden needed to take further steps to win the support of the Turkish Parliament, which would not have time to address the issue before it returned from recess more than a month later.
Parliament reconvened on Oct. 1, but Mr. Erdogan did not immediately send the accession protocol.
Last month, Mr. Erdogan added a new, seemingly unrelated condition, saying his backing of Sweden depended on the United States approving the sale of fighter jets and other military equipment to Turkey.
Mr. Erdogan has given no recent statements indicating a change in his stance. His signing of the protocol on Monday was done with no public fanfare and announced in a one-sentence statement from his office.
Mr. Stoltenberg welcomed the move.
“I look forward to a speedy vote to ratify and to welcoming Sweden as a full NATO ally very soon,” he said. “As I told President Erdogan when we spoke on the weekend, this will make the whole alliance stronger and more secure.”
Hungary is the only other NATO nation that has not approved Sweden’s membership bid, although Hungarian officials have said they would follow Turkey’s lead.
Lara Jakes contributed reporting.