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Biden brushes off Turkey opposition to Finland, Sweden joining NATO

Politics

Biden brushes off Turkey opposition to Finland, Sweden joining NATO

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President Biden dismissed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO Wednesday, telling reporters: “I think we’re gonna be okay.”

Biden downplayed Erdogan’s stance ahead of a Thursday White House summit with the leaders of the Nordic nations.

“I got a call that both the leaders of Finland and Sweden are coming to see me on Thursday. I think we’re gonna be okay,” Biden said after receiving a briefing about the upcoming hurricane season.

“You can convince Turkey to accept their bids?” a reporter asked.

“I’m not going to Turkey, but I think we’re gonna be okay,” Biden replied. It was not clear whether he misheard the questioner.

Turkey can derail the expansion of the Atlantic alliance because all current members must agree on welcoming other countries into the club.

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a briefing from senior officials on efforts to prepare for and respond to future hurricanes, at Joint Base Andrews on May 18, 2022.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a press briefing later Wednesday that he was “confident” that Turkey will allow the two countries to join.

“We’re confident that at the end of the day, Finland and Sweden will have an effective and efficient accession process [and] that Turkey’s concerns can be addressed,” Sullivan said. “Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey to do this, but we’re also talking to the Turks to try to help facilitate.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting Wednesday with Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu at the United Nations.

Erdogan, in power since 2003, is known for jailing his political opponents and said he believes Finland and Sweden don’t take a hard enough stance against “terrorists,” referring to Kurdish activists.

“Neither country has an open, clear stance against terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said this week, adding, “Are they coming to try and convince us? Sorry don’t wear yourselves out.”

Erdogan has a nuanced relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutrality and seek to join NATO.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets members of his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey.

The Washington-Ankara relationship, meanwhile, has been strained in recent years by Erdogan’s support for rebel groups in Syria and Libya and his detention of US citizens.

Erdogan notoriously stood by and watched in 2017 as his guards attacked Kurdish-American and Armenian-American protesters in DC after he met at the White House with then-President Donald Trump. Fifteen of his guards were indicted in the US, though charges against 11 of them were quietly dropped in 2018. Congress blocked an arms sale to Turkey after the incident.

In 2018, Trump ordered sanctions against Turkey’s interior and justice ministers over the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson, who was released later that year.

In 2019, Turkey attacked US-allied Kurds in northern Syria after Trump announced plans to draw down US troops there. Trump warned Erdogan not to be a “tough guy” or “fool”, but Erdogan ignored him and launched the assault anyhow.

In 2020, the US sanctioned Turkey for purchasing S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia for $2.5 billion.

Last year, Biden recognized as a genocide the World War I slaughter of Armenians by Turks and Kurds, angering Erdogan. And in 2020, Biden denounced Erdogan for turning the Hagia Sophia, the most famous building in Istanbul, from a museum back into a mosque.

The US has also repeatedly refused Erdogan’s request to deport the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan claims was behind an alleged 2016 coup attempt that’s been used to suppress political dissent in Turkey.

Source: NY Post

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