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Turkey's Erdogan submits Sweden's NATO bid to parliament for ratification

ANKARA - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday submitted a bill approving Sweden's NATO membership bid to parliament for ratification, the presidency said, in a move welcomed by Stockholm that clears the way for it to join the Western defence alliance.

Erdogan pleased his NATO allies at a summit in July by promising to send the legislation to parliament when it reopened on Oct. 1, having previously raised objections over Sweden's alleged harbouring of terrorists.

Since parliament reopened, however, Turkish officials have repeatedly said Stockholm needed to take more concrete steps to clamp down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militia before Ankara could ratify its membership bid. The PKK is deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

On Monday the bill on approving Sweden finally moved forward.

"The Protocol on Sweden's NATO Accession was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 23, 2023 and referred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey," the presidency said on social media platform X without elaborating.

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed the move and said Stockholm was looking forward to becoming a NATO member. "Now it remains for the parliament to deal with the question," Kristersson said on X.

There is no set timeframe for ratification, however. The bill will be put on the agenda of parliament's foreign affairs commission, which will have to pass it before it can be sent to the general assembly for ratification.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland's membership was sealed in April, in a historic expansion of the alliance, but Sweden's bid had been held up by Turkey and Hungary.

Turkey, which has NATO's second-biggest army, has long been seeking U.S. congressional approval for a $20 billion sale of F-16 jets and modernisation kits. Erdogan has previously linked Sweden's NATO bid to U.S. support for its request.