Erdogan to visit Budapest next month as Turkey and Hungary hold up Sweden's membership in NATO

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to the media during his visit at the chancellery with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) (Markus Schreiber, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BUDAPEST – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Hungary's capital in December, his second trip to Budapest this year at a time when both countries remain the only NATO members not to have ratified Sweden's accession into the trans-Atlantic military alliance.

During his visit on Dec. 18, Erdogan will take part in a meeting of the Hungarian-Turkish Strategic Cooperation Council, and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Bertalan Havasi, the press chief for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, told local news outlet ATV in a report broadcast on Monday.

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Havasi didn't immediately respond to further questions from The Associated Press on Tuesday about the trip.

It wasn't clear whether Erdogan and Orbán would discuss Sweden's NATO membership, which has been delayed for more than a year by Hungary and Turkey. All 31 NATO allies must endorse the accession of a new member.

Erdogan's government has delayed Sweden's ratification over accusations that Stockholm is too soft on Kurdish militants and other groups Turkey considers to be security threats. But Hungary has expressed no such concrete concerns.

The delays have frustrated other NATO allies, who were swift in accepting Sweden and Finland into the alliance after the neighboring countries dropped their longstanding military neutrality following the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

Finland became a NATO member in April after Turkey and Hungary were the last two members of the alliance to ratify the Nordic nation’s accession.

The Turkish leader submitted a protocol to Turkey’s parliament in October to approve Sweden's admission, but a debate on the matter in the foreign affairs committee was adjourned earlier this month without reaching a decision. It wasn't known when the parliament will resume the debate.

Orbán's government has alleged that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the condition of Hungary’s democracy, but hasn't given specific conditions for approving Sweden's accession.

Hungary's governing Fidesz party has refused proposals by opposition parties to hold an immediate vote on the matter, leading some critics to allege that Orbán is following Ankara's timetable for ratification.

Orbán has said recently that Hungary is in “no rush” to ratify Sweden’s accession, and a senior Fidesz lawmaker said that he saw “little chance” that parliament would vote on the matter this year.

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Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey.