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Swedish Leader Heads to Washington With NATO Entry Imminent

(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson departed for Washington on Wednesday after the Nordic country cleared all hurdles to become a full-fledged member of NATO.

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Sweden is expected to become the 32nd member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as soon as Thursday, when it’s likely to deposit its accession documents at the US State Department, according to people familiar with the preparations.

Kristersson and Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom will hold bilateral meetings with the US administration and members of Congress in Washington, according to a statement from the Swedish government, which stopped short of saying how the trip is linked with the formalities of accession.

Sweden’s bid to join NATO has been approved by all current member states after the accession protocol was certified by Hungary’s president, Tamas Sulyok, on Tuesday. It’s been more than 21 months since the biggest Nordic country filed a joint application with Finland.

Read More: How Russia Pushed Finland and Sweden to Join NATO: QuickTake

What remains to be done before Sweden is formally a member is for the Hungarian document to be received by the US State Department, and for the Swedish government to deposit its accession protocols in Washington. After that, Sweden’s blue and yellow flag is expected to be raised outside the NATO headquarters in Brussels at a ceremony on Monday.

“It is incredibly positive, and we will hopefully become a member not in a matter of weeks, but days,” Sweden’s defense minister, Pal Jonson, said at a press conference with his German counterpart on Tuesday. “This will be good for Sweden, for NATO and for stability in the entire euro-Atlantic region.”

While Finland gained all necessary approvals and joined the alliance in April last year, winning over Turkey proved a harder nut to crack for Sweden after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s complaints about how the country dealt with Kurdish groups he views as terrorist. In the end, Turkey relented, paving the way for a sale of F-16 fighter jets from the US, and leaving Hungary as the only holdout until the parliament in Budapest voted to accept Sweden into the alliance late last month.

Read More: Sweden Clears Final Hurdle to Join NATO With Hungary Vote

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who had stalled Sweden’s bid, will also be in Washington this week, and on Friday, he will meet former president Donald Trump in Florida.

(Updates with accession timing in second paragraph.)

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