Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given himself ample room to make more mischief in blocking Sweden’s application to join Nato.
The strongman’s line is that he’s sent the membership bid for ratification in parliament, and there’s nothing he can do if lawmakers decide to take their time over it. Most realistic observers of Turkey’s regime would, however, say that if Erdogan wants the legislature to fast-track approval of the Nato status, then the ruling party coalition MPs won’t be slow in getting it done.
Newly complicating matters is Erdogan’s expressed anger at the West’s response to Israel’s bombardment and besieging of the Gaza Strip. The parliament on November 6 said it would no longer be serving Coca-Cola or Nestle products on its premises as part of a boycott of companies that it claimed “support Israel”.
"It was decided that the products of companies that support Israel will not be sold in restaurants, cafeterias and tea houses on the parliament campus," the legislature said in a statement.
Some commentators have concluded that Erdogan’s decision not to show any urgency over pushing the Swedish move to join the transatlantic defence bloc through Turkey’s parliament is a response to his annoyance at being sidelined by the US in the Israel-Hamas conflict and an attempt at regaining he spotlight. Though Erdogan likes to portray himself as a leader of the movement to secure a Palestinian state, the Biden administration has not made talking to Ankara a priority in the Gaza crisis. Instead, it has prioritised other countries in the Middle East in rounds of diplomacy.
Apart from Turkey, the only Nato country yet to ratify the move to welcome Sweden into Nato is Hungary.
On November 4, Erdogan said he would try to facilitate the parliamentary ratification of Sweden's Nato membership as much as possible, but he quickly added that Stockhom had still not taken sufficient action against Kurdish militants living in Sweden that Turkey sees as a “terrorist” threat.
"Our duty was to submit this [Swedish Nato application] to parliament in the first stage, we did that," broadcaster Haberturk quoted Erdogan as telling reporters on a plane heading for Turkey from Kazakhstan, where Erdogan attended an Organisation of Turkic States (OTS) meeting.
Erdogan added that planned talks in parliament on Turkey's 2024 state budget would now take priority for MPs, giving another indication that any Turkish approval of Sweden's Nato membership might not be rapid.