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Article: Hungarian parliament delays vote on Swedish NATO membership

A Swedish Marine shoots at targets during Exercise Archipelago Endeavor

Hungarian parliament delays vote on Swedish NATO membership

PHOTO CAPTION: A Swedish Marine shoots at targets during Exercise Archipelago Endeavor along with U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe in Korso, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Menelik Collins via U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)



By Krisztina Than and Boldizsar Gyori

BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Hungary's parliament will not hold a vote on Sweden's NATO membership next week, according to its schedule released on Thursday, further delaying ratification of the move by the Western alliance.

Sweden, dropping a longtime policy of military non-alignment following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has set its sights on formal accession at NATO's July 11-12 summit but, while it has strong support from other members including the United States, both Turkey and Hungary have so far blocked ratification.

Earlier on Thursday, a lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Coalition party, Agnes Vadai, told Reuters that lawmakers of the ruling Fidesz and Christian Democrat parties at a committee meeting did not support putting the vote on the agenda for next week's plenary session of parliament.

"The House committee has rejected putting the vote on the agenda for next week," Vadai said, adding that her party would again propose a vote on Monday at a full session of parliament.

Vadai said it was "obvious" Fidesz would decide when to schedule the vote depending on Turkey's stance.

"(Prime Minister) Viktor Orban moves in tandem with (Turkish President Tayyip) Erdogan...ignoring Hungarian sovereignty and... breaking the unity ofNATO," she said. "As it stands today, there won't be a ratification before the NATO summit."

Sweden's prime minister said he aimed to speak with Orban later on Thursday over media reports that Hungary's parliament would delay ratification of Sweden's NATO bid.

A Hungarian government spokesman and the Foreign Ministry did not reply to emailed Reuters questions.

Hungary's parliament will sit on Monday, Tuesday and Friday next week, voting on several bills including the 2024 budget.

The ratification process has been stranded in parliament since last July, but Orban aired concerns about Sweden and Finland's NATO membership quest for the first time in February.

Among other criticisms, he has accused both countries of spreading "outright lies" about the health of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary, although Hungarian lawmakers approved Finland's bid in late March.

Reiterating Turkey's position, Erdogan told NATO's secretary general in a phone call on Sunday that Sweden must stop protests by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Stockholm to obtain a green light to join the alliance.

On Wednesday, a Western official told Reuters that NATO allies have accelerated efforts to convince Turkey to lift its opposition to Sweden's accession but whether they would succeed before the Lithuania summit is unclear.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Boldizsar Gyori, editing by Mark Heinrich)



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