Biden, Erdogan Speak On Sweden’s NATO Bid

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Biden, Erdogan Speak as US Seeks Deal on Sweden’s NATO Bid
Biden, Erdogan Speak as US Seeks Deal on Sweden’s NATO Bid

Leaders Biden and Erdogen hold call ahead of NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania

ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed Sunday with his US counterpart Joe Biden on Sweden’s NATO bid over the phone, ahead of the alliance’s summit this week.

Biden, for his part, conveyed to Erdogan his desire to welcome Sweden into NATO as soon as possible.

Reported Bloomberg, according to a white house statement, Biden spoke to Erdogan in a call Sunday from Air Force One en route to the UK, which the US president is visiting before this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit. 

The two “discussed the range of issues that NATO leaders will consider at the summit, expressed their shared commitment to continue supporting Ukraine, and reviewed efforts to strengthen our bilateral ties. President Biden also conveyed his desire to welcome Sweden into NATO as soon as possible,” the White House statement said. 

 It was reported that the call lasted about 45 minutes to an hour and that the leaders agreed to sit down together during the two-day summit, which starts Tuesday in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Finland Became NATO’s 31st Member State

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year but met with objections from Türkiye on the grounds that the two countries harbour members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)  and the Gulen movement.

Türkiye eventually lifted its objection to Finland’s NATO accession earlier this year after Helsinki took what Ankara calls “concrete steps” against such organizations. In April, Finland became NATO’s 31st member state.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (center) welcomes Finland into NATO after Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (L) handed the official paperwork over to Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Photo: AFP via Getty

During the phone call, Erdogan noted “Sweden has taken some steps in the right direction” toward the ratification of its NATO bid by making changes in its anti-terrorism legislation, said the statement.

However, the Turkish leader said these steps were “nullified” as the supporters of PKK “continue to hold demonstrations freely in the country to advocate terrorism”.

Türkiye Wants Sweden To Toughen Up On Kurdish Separatist Groups

Sweden is seeking to convince Erdogan to allow the country to join NATO, but Türkiye and Hungary have held off on ratifying its application. Türkiye has cited concerns Sweden isn’t doing enough to clamp down on Kurdish separatist groups that Ankara views as terrorist organizations. 

Türkiye wants Sweden to extradite or expel alleged supporters of Kurdish militant group PKK, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union, as well as of affiliated Kurdish YPG forces in Syria and followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan alleges Gulen masterminded a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. 

Hungary has said it will follow Turkey’s decision. 

Delivery of F-16 Fighter Jets

In addition to Sweden’s NATO membership bid, Erdogan discussed the delivery of F-16 fighter jets with Biden and Türkiye’s efforts to join the EU, according to a statement by Türkiye’s Directorate of Communications.

Erdogan stressed that it was not correct to associate Türkiye’s F-16 purchase from the United States with Sweden’s NATO bid, referring to several objections from the US Congress to Ankara’s purchase demand for F-16s over its veto of Sweden’s NATO membership.

Regarding Türkiye’s EU bid, Erdogan told Biden that his country was “principled and honest” about EU membership, appealing to revive its membership process and hoping for getting a clear and strong message of support from leading countries of the EU at the upcoming Vilnius Summit.

The last time the two leaders spoke was in May, when Biden called Erdogan to congratulate him after the Turkish election. — Mediahit