Blinken and his Turkish counterpart discuss in the United Kingdom, NATO on the agenda

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Turkey’s new Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Wednesday for talks that were expected to focus on next month’s NATO summit, where Sweden hopes to join the western defense alliance.

Turkey has opposed Sweden’s bid for NATO membership, citing security concerns, but bloc members have expressed hope that it will join in time for the mid-term summit. -July in Vilnius.

“We will talk about the next NATO summit, including Sweden’s accession process,” Blinken told reporters, seated opposite Fidan as they met on the sidelines of a conference in London. Defense cooperation and issues of energy and economic collaboration would also be on the agenda, Blinken added.

Last month, Blinken urged Turkey to immediately finalize Sweden’s membership in the bloc. Sweden and Finland both reversed decades of military non-alignment last year and applied to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Finland joined NATO in April but Turkey continues to block Sweden’s membership. Last week, President Tayyip Erdogan said he should not expect a green light from Ankara at the summit unless it prevents anti-Turkish protests in Stockholm.

Turkey says Sweden harbors members of militant groups it considers terrorists. Sweden recently introduced a new law to make it harder to fund or support terrorist groups.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Wednesday that Turkey’s parliament should start ratifying Sweden’s candidacy because Stockholm has now fulfilled its obligations under an agreement with Ankara.

Blinken and Fidan were in London to attend a conference on Ukraine where the allies were to pledge billions of dollars in economic aid and reconstruction. Fidan said he was there to demonstrate Turkey’s support for Ukraine.

Turkey’s former intelligence chief Fidan was appointed by Erdogan this month following his May election victory. Fidan also said he would discuss bilateral issues with his American counterpart.

“The truth is that we may not agree on every issue, but our longstanding alliance in NATO and other platforms compels us to continue working together,” Fidan said in a statement. 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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