Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of a far-right party in Turkey, has said his party is not inclined to vote to approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO and will only do so if the members of the Atlantic alliance take steps for the recognition of an independent Palestine and trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to his actions in Gaza.
“We will say, ‘OK’ to Sweden’s NATO membership if an independent state of Palestine with territorial integrity is recognized on the basis of its 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, if Israel agrees to pay damages [for its violent actions against Palestinians] and the way for the trial of Netanyahu at [the International Court of Justice] The Hague is opened,” said Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Bahçeli, who is an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
His remarks came during an interview with the MHP-affiliated TürkGün newspaper on Friday.
The Turkish Parliament in November started to debate Sweden’s application to join NATO after President Erdoğan launched the process following a deal at a NATO summit in July.
Sweden and Nordic neighbor Finland had dropped their long-standing policies of non-alignment and applied to join the US-led military alliance in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Finland became NATO’s 31st member in April.
Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members that have yet to ratify Sweden’s bid, more than 18 months after it applied for membership.
Bahçeli has been one of the outspoken critics of the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza which began after militants from the Palestinian group Hamas carried out an unprecedented surprise attack in Israel on October 7 that claimed 1,200 lives.
Israeli air and ground attacks in Gaza have claimed more than 16,000 lives since October 7 in addition to causing massive destruction in the enclave and leading to the displacement of at least 1.8 million people.
In an earlier statement, Bahçeli objected to Sweden’s membership due to its alleged support for members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Sweden is the PKK’s hideout in Europe. Stockholm is the same as Kandil,” Bahçeli said, referring to the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq, the stronghold of PKK militants.
More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between Turkish security forces and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.