VILNIUS (Lithuania), July 11 (AP) NATO summit starts Tuesday with Turkey withdrawing its objection to Sweden’s NATO membership, the kind of solidarity Western leaders crave in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine step. .
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision is a major move to join Sweden and will ease tensions in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
“This is a historic day,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday night announcing the agreement after days of intense meetings.
As part of the deal, Erdogan said he would ask the Turkish parliament to approve Sweden’s NATO membership. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is expected to take similar steps.
The result was also a victory for US President Joe Biden, who touted NATO expansion as an example of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could backfire on Moscow. Finland has become the 31st member of the alliance and Sweden is expected to become the 32nd.
Biden arrived in Vilnius on Monday night and is scheduled to meet Erdogan on Tuesday night. Biden also attended a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, to which Sweden belongs, in the afternoon.
It was unclear how some of Erdogan’s other demands would be resolved. He has been pursuing advanced American fighter jets and a path to the European Union. The White House has expressed support for both but has publicly insisted that the issues have nothing to do with Sweden’s NATO membership.
In a statement, Biden thanked Erdogan for promising to forward Sweden’s accession protocol to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly for “quick approval.”
“I stand ready to work with President Erdogan and Turkey to strengthen defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic region,” Biden added.
An administration official said the mention of boosting Turkey’s defenses was a nod to Biden’s commitment to help Turkey buy new F-16 fighter jets.
The Biden administration supports Turkey’s desire to buy 40 new F-16s from the United States, as well as modern equipment. Some in Congress, notably Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J), objected to Turkey’s blocking of NATO membership. For Sweden, its human rights record and other issues.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to comment, said the White House had been “cautiously hopeful” but wasn’t sure it would be able to get Erdogan to make concessions before the summit.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and national security adviser Jack Sullivan have spoken by phone with Erdogan and top Turkish and Swedish officials in recent days.
In Washington, Menendez said he “still has reservations” about supplying Turkey with fighter jets. Menendez told reporters that if the Biden administration can show that Turkey will not use the F-16s against other NATO members, especially its neighbor Greece, and other conditions are met, “then there may be a path forward.” .
NATO leaders still have other major issues to resolve at the summit, notably Ukraine’s desire to join NATO. The Baltic states – including Lithuania, which hosted the event – have been pushing to show strong support for Ukraine and offer a clear path for Ukraine to join the country.
The U.S. and Germany resisted it, and Biden said last week that Ukraine was not ready to join. He told CNN that NATO members need to “meet all the qualifications from democratization to a range of other issues,” a nod to long-standing concerns about governance and corruption in Kiev.
Moreover, some worry that the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO is more of a provocation to Russia than a deterrent of aggression.
Writing in Foreign Affairs on Monday, Stoltenberg said the alliance would “upgrade our political relationship” by forming a NATO-Ukraine council that would serve as a “platform for decision-making and crisis negotiation.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to attend Wednesday’s summit. He plans to meet with Biden there to discuss unannounced plans, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Stoltenberg reiterated that Ukraine would eventually become a member of NATO, a promise President George W. Bush made in 2008. NATO leaders did not outline further details.
However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said NATO had agreed to drop the requirement for a “membership action plan”, a decision he called “shortening our path to NATO membership”.
Biden spent Monday in Britain, meeting King Charles III for the first time since taking the throne. After being welcomed by the royal family at Windsor Castle, they discussed mobilizing financial support to tackle climate change.
The President also traveled to 10 Downing Street to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. This is their sixth meeting and reflects the close relationship between the two countries.
After the NATO summit, Biden will travel to Helsinki to celebrate Finland’s recent accession to NATO and meet Nordic leaders. (Associated Press)
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