ISTANBUL (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met new Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Wednesday for talks that were set to focus on next month’s NATO summit, where Sweden is hoping to join the Western defence alliance.
Turkey has objected to Sweden’s bid to join NATO, citing security concerns, but members of the bloc have expressed hope that it will become a member in time for the mid-July summit in Vilnius.
“We’ll be talking about the upcoming NATO summit, including the accession process for Sweden,” Blinken told reporters, sitting opposite Fidan as they met on the sidelines of a conference in London. Defence cooperation and the issues of energy and economic collaboration would also be on the agenda, Blinken added.
Last month, Blinken urged Turkey to finalise immediately Sweden’s accession to the bloc. Sweden and Finland both reversed decades of military non-alignment last year and applied to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland joined NATO in April but Turkey continues to block Sweden’s membership. Last week President Tayyip Erdogan said it should not expect a green light from Ankara at the summit unless it prevents anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm.
Turkey says Sweden harbours members of militant groups it considers to be terrorists. Sweden recently introduced a new law to make it harder to finance or support terrorist groups.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Wednesday Turkey’s parliament should begin to ratify Sweden’s bid because Stockholm has now met its obligations under a deal with Ankara.
Blinken and Fidan were in London to attend a conference on Ukraine at which allies were due to pledge billions of dollars in economic and reconstruction aid. Fidan said he was there to demonstrate Turkey’s support for Ukraine.
Turkey’s former intelligence chief, Fidan was appointed by Erdogan this month after his May election victory. Fidan also said he would discuss bilateral issues with his U.S. counterpart.
“The truth is we may not see eye to eye on every issue, but our longstanding alliance within NATO and other platforms compels us to continue to work together,” Fidan said in a video released by the Turkish foreign ministry.
(Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ali Kucukgocmen and Christina Fincher)
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