Erdogan to meet Biden for crunch NATO expansion talks
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said he would meet US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid to negotiate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the bloc’s expansion. this into two Nordic countries.
Analysts believe the meeting could play an important role in breaking Turkish resistance to Sweden and Finland’s offers to join a Western defense alliance to deal with the conflict. war.
The two leaders have had a frosty relationship since Biden’s election because of US concerns about human rights under Erdogan.
Biden and Erdogan last met in October on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome.
“We spoke with Mr. Biden this morning and he expressed his desire to meet tonight or tomorrow. We said it was possible,” Erdogan said.
He spoke to reporters before flying to Madrid for talks that will begin with his meeting with the leaders of the two Nordic countries and the NATO secretary general.
Erdogan said he wanted to see the outcome of preparatory talks held on Monday in Brussels before deciding whether Sweden and Finland would do enough to lift his objections to membership. their military alliance or not.
Turkey is a NATO member and could veto applications from both countries at the summit.
“We are a 70-year-old member of NATO. Turkey is not a random country that joins NATO,” Erdogan said.
“We will see where they (Finland and Sweden) have reached,” he added. “We don’t want words. We want results.”
Ankara has accused Finland and Sweden in particular of providing a safe haven for Kurdish fighters who have waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
The Turkish leader has also called on the two countries to lift the arms embargo imposed on Turkey in 2019 because of Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.
The two countries attended the NATO meeting with Turkey likely only to lift its objections after the summit ended on Thursday.
“We have made progress. That is certainly the case,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.
“We are preparing for something positive to happen today, but it also takes more time,” she added. “We have to be patient and continue the discussions even after the summit.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said he was not “optimistic or pessimistic at this stage”.
“We will go into the discussion this afternoon with Erdogan with an open mind,” he told Finnish media.
Erdogan’s ability to maintain a close working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while supporting the Ukrainian war effort has made him a key player in the conflict.
But those ties have also complicated his relationship with Biden and NATO.
Washington punished Ankara for the delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system in 2019.
The purchase saw the United States remove Turkey from its F-35 joint strike fighter program and impose trade restrictions on the country’s military procurement agency.
However, Washington has signaled that it may be willing to sidestep the dispute.
The Biden administration was able to supply Ankara with older generation F-16 jets that could supplement Turkey’s aging air force.
“The most important issue is the F-16 issue. It’s still on the table,” Erdogan said of his upcoming talks with Biden.