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President Biden is expected to meet one-on-one with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday when the two leaders attend the NATO summit in Madrid. 

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden would meet with Erdoğan in some form Wednesday on the sidelines of the three-day summit, after the two spoke by phone on Tuesday.

“We do expect at some point tomorrow President Erdoğan and President Biden have a chance to talk,” Sullivan said, adding that there isn’t yet a “fixed time or framework” for the meeting.  

The meeting will be the first face-to-face between the two leaders since the Turkish president raised objections to the bids by Sweden and Finland to join the NATO alliance. Every NATO member must be on board in order for new countries to be added to the alliance. 

Sullivan said the two leaders would focus on “strategic issues” between Washington and Ankara as well as regional issues. And while he acknowledged that the bids by Finland and Sweden would come up, he downplayed the degree to which their conversation would focus on Turkey’s objections.  

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to be the central focus of the president’s meeting with president Erdoğan,” Sullivan told reporters.  

Biden spoke with Erdoğan by phone earlier Tuesday, the first conversation between the two leaders since Sweden and Finland announced their plans to join NATO and Turkey voiced objections due to accusations that both countries aren’t doing enough to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and other countries. 

“President Biden noted he looks forward to seeing President Erdoğan at the NATO Summit in Madrid where leaders will discuss the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for Transatlantic security and other threats to the Alliance such as terrorism, as well as take historic decisions to strengthen the Alliance’s collective defense and security,” the White House readout said.

The readout did not make specific mention of the bids by Sweden and Finland to join NATO. Still, their membership bids promise to be a leading topic at the NATO gathering in Spain. Biden threw his support behind Sweden and Finland seeking to join the alliance last month after Russia invaded Ukraine.   

Some experts have argued that Biden needs to get more directly involved in resolving the dispute. Turkey has accused Sweden and Finland of not doing enough to fight terrorism and demanded the extradition of suspects affiliated with the PKK.  

Some suspect that Turkey is looking for concessions in holding up the bids and that the U.S. will need to offer Ankara something in return, like American-made fighter jets.

Sullivan on Tuesday expressed confidence that both Nordic countries would eventually be let into the alliance and that the U.S. would continue to advocate for their membership without supplanting the role of NATO’s secretary general in brokering the discussions.  

Updated at 9:23 a.m.

Tags Biden Finland Jake Sullivan NATO President Biden Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Russia Summit Sweden Turkey Ukraine
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