Earthquake Response, NATO Expansion on Agenda as Blinken Visits Turkey

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting Monday with Turkish leaders in Ankara, with Turkey’s recovery from a devastating earthquake and its position as a necessary vote for expanding NATO among the top agenda items. 

Blinken’s schedule includes talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which this week reaches its one-year anniversary, prompted Sweden and Finland to seek entry to the NATO defensive alliance, a process that requires unanimous consent of the existing members. Hungary and Turkey are the only ones yet to approve the new candidates. 

Turkey has expressed security concerns regarding Sweden, saying it has been too lenient toward groups that Turkey considers terror organizations. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week during his own visit to Turkey that “the time is now” for Turkey to ratify both countries as new NATO members.   

Cavusolgu and Erdogan have each said Turkey may evaluate the two bids separately and could approve Finland’s on its own.  

Earthquake aid 

Blinken arrived Sunday in Turkey, his first visit to the country since becoming the top U.S. diplomat two years ago. 

He brought pledges of $100 million in additional U.S. aid for Turkey and Syria after the February 6 earthquake that has killed more than 44,000 people. 

“I look forward to learning as much as I can from our Turkish partners about what the needs are going forward, how we can best help, how we can best rally resources in support of people here,” Blinken said on his arrival. 

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters 

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