Last week in Türkiye, vote on Sweden’s NATO membership in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) was at the top agenda.
The visit of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi was another important event.
The announcement by the National Security Council (MGK) regarding the Montreux Convention, related to the insistence of the US/UK on entering the Black Sea, also found its place in the political agenda.
Approval for Sweden’s NATO membership
The Turkish Grand National Assembly approved Sweden’s NATO membership.
The protocol regarding Sweden’s NATO membership process was accepted in the General Assembly. In the voting at the General Assembly, the ruling party Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its partner in the People’s Alliance Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), cast affirmative votes. In addition to the main opposition party CHP, the Future Party and the Democracy and Progress Party also voted yes Sweden’s NATO membership, while the Good Party, Felicity Party, Workers’ Party of Türkiye Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party gave negative votes.
346 deputies in the 600-member parliament participated in the vote. With 287 approval, 55 rejection and 4 abstention votes, Sweden’s NATO accession protocol was legalized by a majority vote.
Due to Sweden’s support for the terrorist organisation PKK, President Erdoğan and government officials had repeatedly stated that they would not support Sweden’s NATO membership. However, during the vote, the AKP voted as a single block in favour of Sweden’s NATO membership. Only 2 AKP deputies voted no to Sweden’s membership.
Before the vote, Fuat Oktay, the Chairman of the Turkish Grand National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee and AKP Deputy from Ankara, stated, “We have observed that Sweden has made a change in its constitution imposing sanctions on support for terrorist organizations. With the changes made in the counter-terrorism law, joining a terrorist organization has been subjected to penalty in Sweden for the first time.” With these remarks, Fuat Oktay called for a yes vote for NATO membership.
Erzurum Deputy Kamil Aydın from the coalition partner MHP stated that Türkiye’s concerns, expectations, and demands regarding Sweden’s NATO membership were expressed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Aydın remarked, “Our concerns, expectations, and demands have found a response from our counterparts and continue to do so. Legal and constitutional amendments have been made and continue to be made regarding the fight against terrorism and insults against our sacred values.”
The main opposition party CHP also supported Sweden’s NATO membership. Before the vote, CHP Istanbul Deputy Oğuz Kaan Salıcı expressed their support for NATO’s expansion with the following statements:
“Today, we are not just voting on Sweden’s NATO membership. Today, we are also voting on NATO’s expansion strategy. The fundamental question we will answer today is this: While the world is experiencing a rupture, while the war in Gaza shows signs of spreading, while the war continues in Ukraine, while the tension between China and Taiwan escalates, when 12% of world trade is halted in the Red Sea and it is clear that this rupture will deepen in the long term, are we together with democracies or with authoritarian regimes? Is it in our country’s interest that NATO remain militarily strong, politically empowered, and adopt an inclusive approach? Is it in our country’s interest for NATO’s collective deterrence to strengthen and to increase its resistance against Russia’s aggressive policies? These are the fundamental questions (…) We value NATO’s deterrent power against any threat that disrupts the peace and stability. We support NATO’s expansion policy with the participation of new members. Therefore, today, in the vote, as the Republican People’s Party, we will say yes to Sweden’s NATO membership.”
Mustafa Kaya, Deputy Chairman of the Felicity Party, voted no to NATO’s enlargement. Kaya explained their reasons in CGTN Türk channel as follows:
“We, as a country, can’t look at this region, this geography, the Black Sea, or the relations in the region entirely through American lenses. If we do this, it weakens our contribution to regional peace and world peace, and at the same time it puts us under threat (…) After the end of the Cold War in 1991, we have seen US’s increasing interest in the Black Sea. For example, Romania and Bulgaria’s NATO membership in 2004, there came disturbances in Georgia, in Ossetia. When all this kind of topics are evaluated and the debate over the Montreux Straits Convention in Türkiye, we see that the US has different purposes in the Black Sea.”
“NATO’s disregard for regional balances in its expansion strategy, Sweden’s failure to fully meet Türkiye’s demands and the putting Türkiye’s approval of Sweden’s NATO membership as a precondition to aircraft F-16 which Türkiye has been using for a long time led us to vote no.”
Another reaction to the approval decision came from the leader of the Vatan Party, Doğu Perinçek. Perinçek said the following:
“Some say ‘We are voting NATO and Sweden’. No, we are discussing ‘Should NATO’s threats to Türkiye intensify, or will Türkiye stand resolute against NATO’s threats?’ What is being voted on is, in fact, the economy and security of Türkiye. When you say yes to NATO, those who vote yes are actually voting for sinking of the Turkish economy. Should Türkiye surrender to the US and NATO?
(…) There is nothing more natural than the Turkish nation being wary of NATO. Today, polls show that an overwhelming majority of our people are against NATO. This is also a warning to the AKP and MHP.
(…) If we are going to fight for the integrity of our homeland against imperialism and Zionism, we will stand against NATO.”
President Raisi’s visit to Türkiye
Last week, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi visited Türkiye.
President Raisi met with President Erdoğan and attended the 8th Meeting of the Türkiye-Iran High-Level Cooperation Council. Following the meetings and talks, 10 agreements were signed covering various areas of cooperation between the two countries including energy, free zones, media, culture, railway transportation and mutual recognition of driver’s licenses.
President Erdoğan began his words with condemning the terror attack that took place on January 3 in Kerman and expressing that Türkiye stands by Iran in the fight against terrorism in his statement after the meetings with his Iranian counterpart. Erdoğan also reiterated “the importance of our neighbor Iran’s growing support in the fight against terror. We have stressed the importance of strengthening our cooperation against the PKK-PYD/YPG and PJAK, which target the security of our country and region.”
Erdoğan talked about the growing trade volume:
“We have made progress towards our $30bln target in annual trade with Iran, particularly in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. On the other hand, we are aware that we have to run faster in this track. We have discussed with Mr. President the steps we will take in this direction. We have noted that the resolution of the problems experienced by our business communities would significantly contribute to our efforts.”
In this context Erdoğan once again stated that “We have not terminated and will not terminate our economic and trade relations with our neighbor Iran due to sanctions.”
Erdoğan then talked about Gaza and Palestine, saying “The Palestinian issue is in the focus of both Türkiye and Iran”:
“During today’s meeting, we have discussed areas of concrete cooperation as well as regional and international relations, particularly Israel’s attacks on Gaza and occupied Palestinian lands. We exchanged views on the issues that are on our common agenda from the fight against terror to energy, trade to education. We have followed up on the decisions we had taken in the former council meetings.”
President Raisi, in his evaluation of the visit and meetings, said the two countries “have been in good relations” and “Tehran wishes to elevate the bilateral ties to even higher levels in the future”.
President Raisi emphasized determination against terrorism saying “Terrorism is supported by the West. We are determined to fight against terrorism. There is no hesitation on this matter. Türkiye’s security is our security.”
Raisi criticised the US and Western countries for their support for Israel and underlined both countries’ mutual stance in Palestine: “As two sides, we agreed to support the Palestinian cause, the axis of resistance, and to give the Palestinian people their rightful rights.”
National Security Council’ press release on the Montreux Convention
In recent times, there has been an increase in attempts by the US and the UK to intervene in the war in Ukraine through the Black Sea. In response, Türkiye using its rights derived from the Montreux Convention, had closed the Straits to warships.
Last week, the National Security Council also made a statement on the subject. The statement was issued following the meeting chaired by President Erdoğan. The press release addressed the urgent need for ceasefire and the establishment of a permanent peace and said “Türkiye’s approach to eliminating current risks, meticulously maintaining efforts for peace and stability in the Black Sea within the framework of the Montreux regime, including initiatives in food security and practices like the Black Sea Mine Countermeasure Task Group, was highlighted.”
Celeste Wallander, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the US Department of Defense responsible for international security affairs, had requested a change in the Article 19 of the Montreux Convention following the Russia-Ukraine war.
On the matter, another statement came from the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov stated the following: “If the US has a request for a change to the Montreux Convention, our Turkish colleagues, as the protectors of the Convention, have assured us many times that they will strictly adhere to the provisions of the Convention.”
Regarding the “increased activity” at the Pentagon following the return of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Lavrov said that he doesn’t believe that their efforts to alter the Convention won’t be successful.