Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has met with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in the Turkish city of Istanbul, reports Asian Lite News
Zelensky spent this week visiting NATO countries, courting support ahead of a NATO summit in Lithuania next week where members are expected to reaffirm that Ukraine will eventually join, the CNN reported.
The Turkish President said: “Without a doubt, Ukraine deserves to be in NATO.”
Zelensky said he was “happy to hear” that Turkey supports Ukraine’s bid to join during a joint press conference.
This is Zelensky’s first visit to Turkey since the war broke out between his country and Russia in February 2022, but he has often spoken on the phone with Erdogan, whose country has been pushing for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
The two presidents met on Friday night at the Vahdettin Palace on the Asian side of the city, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Finishing a busy day in Turkey,” Zelensky tweeted, followed by another tweet of an image of the two leaders shaking hands. “Coordination of positions on the peace formula, the NATO summit, security guarantees, and the grain initiative” were discussed, he said.
Meanwhile, the White House said that Ukraine’s entry into NATO will be discussed at the alliance’s ensuing summit but it won’t come out as a member.
Jake Sullivan, White House National Security Advisor, said that the summit to be held next week in Vilnius will highlight NATO’s readiness to consider Ukraine’s membership, which he termed a “milestone” in itself. Sullivan said, “The NATO Summit will dive into the question of NATO’s relationship with Ukraine, both the question of its pathway towards future membership and the question of an ongoing partnership that has existed for several years.”
“Ukraine’s pathway to NATO will be discussed at the summit, but Kyiv still has further steps that it needs to take before membership and Ukraine will not be joining NATO coming out of this summit,” he added.
Sullivan noted that Ukraine would have the chance to talk about the reforms that are still essential for Kyiv to match NATO standards.
Even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is ready to attend the summit to establish that his country should join the alliance when its conflict with Russia ends, Sullivan said the White House expects Sweden’s NATO membership to win final approval in the foreseeable future.
He also said Turkey and Hungary can “possibly” drop their opposition at the forthcoming summit.
“If not, we believe it will happen in the not-too-distant future,” said Sullivan, adding that there was “fundamental goodwill” towards Sweden’s move within the alliance.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland ended decades of military non-alignment and submitted applications to join NATO last year.
Finland officially joined the bloc in April, but Turkey and Hungary prevented Sweden from joining because of the requirement for unanimity in support of new members.
Due to a long-standing disagreement over Stockholm’s decision to allow alleged Kurdish militants to dwell in the Nordic nation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preventing Sweden from entering the European Union.