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Blinken urges Turkey to support Sweden’s NATO membership bid: report

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged Ankara to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO during a meeting on Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, Reuters reported, citing a State Department spokesperson.

Turkey has previously voiced objections to Sweden’s desire to join the Western military alliance, due to security issues. However, NATO members remain optimistic that Sweden will become a member in time for the mid-July summit in Vilnius.

In a conversation with Fidan on the margins of the Ukraine Recovery Summit in London, Blinken underscored the importance of unity within NATO, especially during these critical times, according to spokesperson Matthew Miller.

“(Blinken) also… encouraged Turkey’s support for Sweden to join the NATO Alliance now,” Reuters quoted Miller as saying.

Blinken also expressed appreciation for Ankara’s support for Kyiv and its efforts related to a grain deal that facilitates Ukrainian exports from Black Sea ports, the spokesperson said.

Blinken had previously urged Turkey to expedite the finalization of Sweden’s accession to the NATO bloc. Last year, both Sweden and Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment and submitted applications to join NATO, prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While Finland secured NATO membership in April, Turkey continues to obstruct Sweden’s membership. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently warned that Ankara would not greenlight Sweden’s membership at the summit unless it curbs anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm.

Turkey has accused Sweden of providing refuge to members of groups it designates as terrorist organizations. In response, Sweden has enacted a new law to make it harder to finance or support terrorist groups.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom stated on Wednesday that Turkey’s parliament should begin the ratification process for Sweden’s NATO bid, given that Stockholm has now fulfilled its obligations under a previous agreement with Ankara.

Both Blinken and Fidan were present in London to attend the Ukraine conference, where allies were expected to commit billions of dollars in economic and reconstruction aid. Fidan said he was there to demonstrate Turkey’s support for Ukraine.

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