Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday to discuss Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, as well as efforts to revive a UN-backed deal that had allowed Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, Turkish state media reported.
(Bloomberg) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday to discuss Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, as well as efforts to revive a UN-backed deal that had allowed Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, Turkish state media reported.
Erdogan agreed to support the bid in July but he recently tied the ratification of the bid to a number of Koran burnings in Sweden that sparked anger in the Muslim world and among his conservative support base, straining ties with allies including the US. Turkey’s parliament is not expected to vote on the matter before late October.
The Turkish president on Monday rebuffed calls from NATO allies to quickly ratify Sweden’s membership, saying that Sweden must first prevent supporters of separatist Kurdish militant groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or the PKK from staging anti-Turkey protests in Stockholm.
“We don’t have any prejudices in place, but there is an issue that Sweden is not keeping its promises,” Erdogan said at a roundtable discussion with think-tanks and senior media representatives in New York, adding that he doesn’t expect Turkey’s parliament to approve Sweden’s bid as long as the PKK is allowed to “protest in the streets of Stockholm.”
Erdogan urged Sweden to review its laws if existing ones were not strong enough to keep protests off the streets, and said he would discuss the issue with Stoltenberg.
Erdogan has recently expressed disappointment over a US demand that Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a prerequisite for agreeing to sell F-16 warplanes. He spoke against hostility toward Islam — without naming Sweden — during a dinner on Sunday in New York, where he will attend the UN General Assembly this week.
“If hostility toward Islam is not prevented, the perpetrators will become even more reckless,” Erdogan said during a dinner hosted by the Turkish American National Steering Committee on Sunday. “As Turkey, we make our warnings against this danger that is growing like a snowball.”
Erdogan, who brokered the UN-backed deal that had allowed the shipment of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea in 2022, is also expected to discuss with Stoltenberg his efforts to revive the Black Sea Gain Initiative, which Russia quit in July. At a Group of 20 summit earlier this month in New Delhi, Erdogan urged world leaders to meet some of Russia’s demands after he failed to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to return to the deal.
While Erdogan’s efforts aren’t likely to sway Ukraine’s allies in the US and Europe, his embrace of Russia’s demands underlines the challenges he faces in his balancing act in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
When asked on Monday at the roundtable about the prospects of an end to the conflict in the near term, Erdogan said “in the nearest future, I don’t think this war is going to end.”
The grain deal is also on the agenda of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who is expected to hold talks with Erdogan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week.
–With assistance from Reto Gregori.
(Updates with NATO-Turkey meeting in first paragraph.)
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