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NATO chief to visit Turkey for Erdoğan’s inauguration

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NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will visit Turkey at the weekend to attend the inauguration of re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and hold talks with him, the alliance said Friday, according to Agence France-Presse.

The trip comes as pressure builds on Erdoğan to drop his opposition to Sweden joining NATO.

Stoltenberg on Thursday said during a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Norway that he would soon visit Ankara to work towards Sweden joining “as early as possible,” after speaking with Erdoğan by phone earlier this week.

The NATO statement said Stoltenberg would attend Erdoğan’s inauguration on Saturday. The Turkish president was last week re-elected to serve another five-year term.

The statement said the visit would extend into Sunday and that Stoltenberg would “have bilateral meetings with President Erdoğan and with senior Turkish officials.”

NATO member Turkey has dragged its feet over admitting Sweden to the military alliance. It and Hungary are the only two member countries yet to ratify Sweden’s membership bid.

Finland formally joined the alliance in April.

Erdoğan has accused Sweden of being a haven for “terrorists,” especially members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom on Thursday said his country has fulfilled all its commitments to join, and “it is time for Turkey and Hungary to start the ratification of the Swedish membership to NATO.”

Many of the ministers who attended the Oslo meeting said they wanted to see Sweden join before a NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius July 11-12.

Stoltenberg has said that goal is “absolutely possible.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said on Thursday that “we fully anticipate” Sweden joining by the Vilnius summit.

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