The president of Turkey has agreed that Sweden should be allowed to join NATO, the head of the military alliance has said.
Jens Stoltenberg said Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to send Sweden‘s accession protocol to the Turkish parliament “as soon as possible”.
Mr Stoltenberg made the announcement following talks with Mr Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the eve of a NATO summit in Lithuania.
“This is a historic day because we have a clear commitment by Turkey to submit the ratification documents to the Grand National Assembly, and to work also with the assembly to ensure ratification,” Mr Stoltenberg told reporters.
Sweden has been trying to join NATO since last year after ending a historic policy of neutrality in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey initially objected to Sweden’s application to join on the grounds that Stockholm was too soft on Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers security threats.
But in a statement, NATO said that since the last summit, Sweden and Turkey had “worked closely together to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns”.
It added: “As part of that process, Sweden has amended its constitution, changed its laws, significantly expanded its counter-terrorism cooperation against the PKK (Kurdish political organisation), and resumed arms exports to Turkey.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was an “historic moment for NATO that makes us all safer”, adding: “Sweden, we look forward to welcoming you into the alliance.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said it was in “everyone’s interest for Sweden to join”.
President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the White House is confident Sweden will join the alliance.
“We don’t regard this as something that is fundamentally in doubt,” he said. “This is a matter of timing. The sooner, the better.”
Earlier, Mr Erdogan appeared to introduce a new condition for approving Sweden’s membership of NATO by calling on European countries to “open the way” for Turkey to join the European Union.
Mr Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul: “Turkey has been waiting at the door of the European Union for over 50 years now, and almost all of the NATO member countries are now members of the European Union.
“I am making this call to these countries that have kept Turkey waiting at the gates of the European Union for more than 50 years.”
He added: “Come and open the way for Turkey’s membership in the European Union. When you pave the way for Turkey, we’ll pave the way for Sweden as we did for Finland.”