Johnson stresses support for Finland, Sweden NATO bids in Erdoğan call

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that his country supported Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership as Turkey continued to block the two Nordic countries from joining the alliance.

“Looking ahead to next week’s NATO summit, the prime minister reiterated the U.K.’s support for Sweden and Finland’s accession to the alliance and agreed with President Erdoğan that all parties would continue to work together to find a path forward,” Johnson’s office said in a statement after a phone call with Erdoğan on Tuesday.

NATO members, led by the United States, have been pressing for an agreement on the accession of Finland and Sweden by the June 29-30 meeting that will take place in Madrid, Spain, to demonstrate unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, a NATO member running the alliance’s second-largest standing army, is blocking Finnish and Swedish membership, citing their alleged failure to combat terrorism.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said on Tuesday that he doubted an agreement with Turkey could be reached ahead of next week's summit, Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper reported.

The call between Johnson and Erdoğan was also focused on global food security, which has been a matter of concern due to Russia’s blockade of Ukraine exports from the Black Sea. They also discussed bilateral relations and defence cooperation.

The leaders agreed on the importance of ending the war and restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty, according to the British government’s readout of the call.

Johnson welcomed Turkey’s efforts to end Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports and its commitment to keeping Black Sea trade routes open, according to the statement.

A short statement on the call from the Turkish presidency did not mention NATO, Finland, Sweden or next week’s summit:

“The call addressed the Türkiye-U.K. relations, particularly cooperation in defence industry, and regional issues including the Russia-Ukraine war,” Erdoğan’s office said. “President Erdoğan stressed that a solution must definitely be found for the export of grain from Ukraine.”

Since the Russian invasion that began in February, Ukrainian grain shipments from its Black Sea ports have stalled, with some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos, threatening a worldwide food crisis. Turkey has developed close relations with Russia over the past five years.

A Turkish military delegation is set to travel to Russia this week for discussions on a possible sea corridor in the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain exports, CNN Türk reported on Tuesday, citing sources from Turkish presidency.

The British prime ministry said Johnson and Erdoğan discussed defence and “raised new opportunities to deepen that partnership.”

 

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