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US, Turkish officials discuss Ukraine and Nordic NATO bids at surprise meeting in İstanbul

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US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser İbrahim Kalın in İstanbul on Sunday, when they discussed their “continued support for Ukraine” in the face of Russia’s aggression and progress on Nordic NATO bids, Turkish media reported on Sunday, citing a statement from the White House.

The officials, whose meeting was unannounced to the media beforehand, talked about their condemnation of “Russia’s attempted, illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory,” according to a written statement by National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson.

It said Sullivan “expressed his appreciation” for Turkey’s efforts to improve global food security by helping facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain and its diplomatic work to secure the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war as well as two American citizens held by Russia.

Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Turkish government opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbors. It has also criticized Russia’s invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.

Watson added that the two officials also discussed regional security issues, including their support for peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the importance of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve any disagreements in the eastern Mediterranean and progress on NATO accession for Finland and Sweden.

The three countries reached a breakthrough agreement on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid in June, with Turkey finally withdrawing its objection to Sweden and Finland’s plans to join NATO, which came in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the Nordic countries agreeing to a set of steps to be taken to address Turkey’s concerns.

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