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In meeting with US, Turkey gives mixed signals on wider NATO – Press Telegram

By MATTHEW LEE and SUZAN FRASER

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States on Wednesday fought for clarity from Turkey on the severity of its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a tougher line against their membership applications.

In a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the United Nations, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu offered mixed signals. He affirmed his country’s support for NATO’s “open door” policy and its understanding of Finland and Sweden’s desire to join the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But he also reiterated Erdogan’s demands that Turkey’s security concerns about the candidate nations be addressed.

“Turkey has been supporting NATO’s open door policy even before this war,” he said. “But with regard to these candidate countries, we also have legitimate security concerns that they have been supporting terrorist organizations and there are also restrictions on the export of defense products,” he said.

“We understand your security concerns, but Turkey’s security concerns must also be addressed, and this is an issue we must continue to discuss with friends and allies, including the United States,” Cavusoglu said.

Speaking to Turkish journalists later, Cavusoglu intensified his criticism, accusing Sweden of not only supporting groups linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but also providing weapons to Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey sees as an extension of the militant. group.

“Everyone says Turkey’s concerns need to be addressed, but this should not be just in words, it should be implemented,” he said.

His comments came as U.S. officials tried to determine how serious Erdogan’s often-mercury was about the issue and what it might take for him to back down. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have largely ignored Erdogan’s comments in his public statements.

Without acknowledging Erdogan’s complaints about Finland and Sweden, Blinken stressed that Washington will work to ensure the success of the NATO expansion process.

“Today we had Finland and Sweden to submit their applications and this is, of course, a process and we will work on this process as allies and partners,” Blinken said.

Underlining the sensitivity of the delicate diplomacy needed to deal with a recalcitrant ally within a 30-member consensus-dependent alliance, U.S. officials declined to comment on Turkey’s position. A joint statement released after Wednesday’s meeting did not mention Finland or Sweden at all and made only a passing reference to NATO.

The six-sentence statement says the two men met “to reaffirm their strong cooperation as NATO partners and allies” and pledged “to deepen bilateral cooperation through constructive and open dialogue.”

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price repeatedly said that “it is not up to us to speak for the Turkish government” when asked about Turkey’s stance.

At stake is an opportunity for the United States and its NATO partners to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by strengthening and expanding the alliance, contrary to what President Vladimir Putin hoped to achieve by starting the war.

But Erdogan’s suggestions that he could derail Sweden and Finland’s hopes for accession also highlight a potential weakness Putin has tried to exploit in the past: the unmanageable nature of the consensus alliance in which one member can block actions backed by others. 29.

Initially seen in Washington and other NATO capitals as a small, easy-to-resolve distraction to the process of expanding the alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdogan’s verbal discharges into Finland and Sweden are attracting more concern. two Nordic nations filed formal applications this Wednesday. hoping to join as soon as possible.

Even if they are overcome, the objections of Turkey, which is the only one of the 30 NATO members that have raised reservations about expansion so far, could delay Finland and Sweden’s accession to the alliance for months, especially if other nations follow suit. search for concessions. by his vows.

Erdogan, who has become increasingly authoritarian over the years, is known for being an unpredictable leader, and there have been times when his words have been in clear contradiction to what Turkish diplomats or other senior government officials have said.

“I do not rule out a possible disconnect between Turkish diplomats and Erdogan. In the past there have been examples of this disconnect,” said Barcin Yinanc, a Turkish foreign policy journalist and commentator.

For example, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Berlin on Sunday after talks with Turkish officials that “Turkey has made it clear that its intention is not to block accession.” Meanwhile, Blinken and other foreign ministers, including top German diplomat Annalena Baerbock, expressed absolute confidence that all NATO members, including Turkey, would welcome the two newcomers.

However, on Monday and again on Wednesday, Erdogan surprised many by duplicating his criticism of Finland and Sweden, accusing them of supporting Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers terrorists and of imposing restrictions on military sales to Turkey.

Gonul Tol, director of Turkey’s program at the Middle East Institute, said that while Erdogan often speaks of a hard line, he often turns to the end and does the “rational.”

“Erdogan is unpredictable. But at the same time, he is a very pragmatic actor,” Tol said. “Erdogan likes to negotiate and pushes” maximalist demands “during negotiations.

She noted that Erdogan’s complaints to Western countries about the Kurds are not new and that tensions between Turkey and the United States over military supply are long-standing.

Following the withdrawal of the F-35 fighter jet’s advanced development program after the purchase of a Russian air defense system, Turkey has been pushing the US. While unrelated to the issue of NATO enlargement, the resolutions could help anyone persuade Erdogan to drop his objections.

Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that his discussions on the matter were “positive”, but did not provide details.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

In meeting with US, Turkey gives mixed signals on wider NATO – Press Telegram Source link In meeting with US, Turkey gives mixed signals on wider NATO – Press Telegram

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