Top US diplomat encourages Turkish counterpart to support Sweden’s NATO bid

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged Ankara to support Sweden in its bid to join NATO in a meeting with new Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said.

Turkey has objected to Sweden’s bid to join the Western military alliance, citing security concerns, but members of the bloc have expressed hope that it will become a member in time for a mid-July summit in Vilnius.

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In a meeting with Fidan on the sidelines of the Ukraine Recovery Summit in London, Blinken stressed the importance of NATO unity at a critical time, spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

“(Blinken) also... encouraged Turkey’s support for Sweden to join the NATO Alliance now,” he said.

Blinken welcomed Ankara’s support for Kyiv and its work on the grain deal, which allows Ukrainian exports from Black Sea ports, the spokesperson said.

Last month, Blinken urged Turkey to finalize immediately Sweden’s accession to the bloc. Sweden and Finland both reversed decades of military non-alignment last year and applied to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland joined NATO in April but Turkey continues to block Sweden’s membership. Last week President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it should not expect a green light from Ankara at the summit unless it prevents anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm.

Turkey says Sweden harbors members of militant groups it considers to be terrorists. Sweden recently introduced a new law to make it harder to finance or support terrorist groups.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Wednesday Turkey’s parliament should begin to ratify Sweden’s bid because Stockholm has now met its obligations under a deal with Ankara.

Blinken and Fidan were in London to attend the conference on Ukraine at which allies were due to pledge billions of dollars in economic and reconstruction aid. Fidan said he was there to demonstrate Turkey’s support for Ukraine.

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