US officials seek clarity on Turkey’s view of NATO enlargement: NPR

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives at a welcoming ceremony for his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday, May 16, 2022.

Burhan Ozbilici / AP

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Burhan Ozbilici / AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives at a welcoming ceremony for his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday, May 16, 2022.

Burhan Ozbilici / AP

WASHINGTON – With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking an increasingly tough line on Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership offer despite far less sharp statements from some of his top aides, US officials are trying to determine how serious the often mercury leader is. is and what it can take to get him to back off.

Amid the conflicting signals from Ankara about the expected applications, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Turkish counterpart in New York on Wednesday in a new attempt to clarify Ankara’s position, after previous attempts only seem to have clouded the situation.

To underscore the sensitivity of the delicate diplomacy required to deal with a potentially stubborn ally, the Biden administration seems to have taken to ignoring Erdogan, saying he can not allow the two nations to join NATO due to their alleged support for groups, Turkey sees as security threats. Instead, the administration focuses on remarks made in closed-door meetings of lower-ranking Turkish officials.

“It is not up to us to speak for the Turkish government,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price repeatedly said Tuesday in response to several questions about what the United States understands Turkey’s position to be and whether Turkey had demanded anything from the United States. in return for accepting the memberships of Finland and Sweden.

At stake for the United States and its NATO partners is an opportunity to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by strengthening and expanding the alliance – the exact opposite of what President Vladimir Putin hoped to achieve by starting the war.

But Erdogan’s suggestion that he could derail Sweden’s and Finland’s membership hopes also highlights a potential weakness that Putin has previously sought to exploit – the unmanageable nature of the consensus-driven alliance, where a single member can block actions supported by the other 29.

Originally seen in Washington and other NATO capitals as an easily resolved minor distraction to the process of expanding the alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdogan’s verbal salvos against Finland and Sweden raise more concern as the two Nordic nations move ever closer. submit formal applications with the hope of coming up as soon as possible.

Even if they are overcome, objections from Turkey, which is the only one of NATO’s 30 members that have made reservations about enlargement so far, could delay Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to the alliance for several months, especially if other nations follow suit. concessions. for their votes.

Erdogan, who has become more and more authoritarian over the years, is known for being an unpredictable leader, and there have been occasions where his words have been in clear contradiction to what Turkish diplomats or other high-ranking officials in his government have said. .

“I do not rule out a possible interruption between Turkish diplomats and Erdogan. In the past, there have been examples of such an interruption,” said Barcin Yinan, a journalist and commentator on Turkish foreign policy. She said there was an “interruption” between Erdogan and the foreign ministry last year when the Turkish leader threatened to expel 10 Western diplomats, including the US ambassador, whom he accused of interfering in Turkey’s judiciary.

For example, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Berlin on Sunday after discussions with Turkish officials that “Turkey has made it clear that their intention is not to block membership.” Meanwhile, Blinken and other foreign ministers, including Germany’s top diplomat, Annalena Baerbock, expressed absolute confidence that all NATO members, including Turkey, would welcome the two newcomers.

Yet on Monday, Erdogan surprised many by doubling his criticism of Finland and Sweden, accusing them of supporting Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers terrorists, and of imposing restrictions on military sales to Turkey.

“None of the countries have an open, clear attitude towards terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said. “We can not say ‘yes’ to those imposing sanctions on Turkey to join NATO, which is a security organization.”

Asked about the inequality, Price, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, would only say that Blinken, after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavuoglu and others over the weekend, “came away with the same feeling of confidence that there was strong consensus for occupying Finland. and Sweden into the alliance if they choose to join, and we are confident that we will be able to maintain that consensus. “

Gonul Tol, director of the Turkey program at the Middle East Institute, said that although Erdogan often speaks loudly, he tends to get around eventually and do the “rational” thing.

“Erdogan is unpredictable. But at the same time, he is a very pragmatic actor,” she said. Tol said Erdogan likes to negotiate and pushes for “maximalist demands” during the negotiations. “He ends up settling for much less than that,” she said.

She noted that Erdogan’s complaints with Western countries about the Kurds are not new and that tensions between Turkey and the United States over military supplies are lingering.

After being dropped from the development program F-35 advanced fighter jets after buying a Russian air defense system, Turkey has pressured the United States to sell the new F-16 fighter jet or at least renovate its existing fleet. Discussions on both issues are taking place in Washington this week, and some officials believe that while unrelated to the NATO enlargement issue, resolutions for both could help persuade Erdogan to drop his objections.

Tol agreed, saying: “This is happening at a time when he is trying to direct the tape to Washington, where Turkey is involved in negotiations to convince Congress to sell F-16s to Turkey. This is a time when Erdogan trying to cut his image to a valuable ally.And it is a time when the invasion of Ukraine has given him an opportunity to reach out to Western capitals.So on that background it would be a very dramatic step, if Turkey actually vetoes the application of Finland and Sweden. “

US officials seek clarity on Turkey’s view of NATO enlargement: NPR

Source link US officials seek clarity on Turkey’s view of NATO enlargement: NPR

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