Washington is “working to clarify Turkey’s position” after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday.
The idea of the two nations becoming members of the transatlantic alliance had received “broad support from NATO member countries,” Psaki said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby likewise said the United States is working to “better understand” Ankara’s stance.
“Turkey is a valued NATO ally; that has not changed. They have been involved and helpful in trying to get dialogue going between Russia and Ukraine ,and they have provided assistance to Ukraine. So nothing changes about their standing in the NATO alliance,” he said.
Erdogan told journalists on Friday that “we do not have a positive opinion” about the two countries joining the alliance, and said they shelter “terrorist organizations.”
Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden, which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harboring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.
Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has swung political and public opinion in Finland and Sweden in favor of membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.
Once a country has decided to apply for NATO membership, the 30 members of the alliance must agree unanimously to extend a formal invitation, which is followed by membership negotiations.
Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, video from Ukraine’s military showed on Friday, as the Ukrainian defence minister predicted many weeks of grinding fighting ahead. Volunteers inside were trying to salvage packages of baby diapers and formula. It was not immediately possible to verify the reports.
The Taliban has implemented a gender segregation plan in the western Herat province, a media report said on Friday. Men are not permitted to dine with family members in family restaurants, Khaam Press reported citing sources in Herat province. According to the Afghan news agency, the rule of the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice applies “even if they are husband and wife.”
The fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has been underway since the past 79 days with no signs of peace. The war has witnessed civilian and military establishments reduced to rubble, innocent civilians losing their lives and more than six million Ukrainians fleeing the country. The European Union has pledged another half billion dollars in military support for Kyiv in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s forces.
A Ukrainian court held a preliminary hearing on Friday in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, after charging a captured Russian soldier with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian. The case is of huge symbolic importance for Ukraine. The court will reconvene on May 18, the judge said. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said the defendant was a 21-year-old tank commander in the Kantemirovskaya tank division from the Moscow region.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, calling for an immediate ceasefire in war-hit Ukraine, news agency Reuters reported. Besides ceasefire, Austin is said to have stressed on the importance of maintaining lines of communication. This is first time Austin spoke to the Russian defence minister since February 18, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement.