US and Turkish officials discuss Ukraine and NATO in unannounced meeting

The two, whose meeting was unannounced to the media beforehand, also discussed Turkey's condemnation of Russia's annexation of Ukrainian territory.

 Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets people during the opening ceremony of Eurasia Tunnel in Istanbul, Turkey, December 20, 2016.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets people during the opening ceremony of Eurasia Tunnel in Istanbul, Turkey, December 20, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MURAD SEZER)

 US national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's chief adviser Ibrahim Kalin in Istanbul on Sunday and discussed "progress on NATO accession for Finland and Sweden," the White House said in a statement.

The two, whose meeting was unannounced to the media beforehand, also discussed Turkey's condemnation of Russia's annexation of Ukrainian territory.

Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbors. It has also criticized Russia's invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.

Turkey's concerns

Sweden and Finland applied to join the military alliance in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but NATO ally Turkey expressed concerns about their candidacies.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Beit al-Turki near the UN headquarters in New York. (credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Beit al-Turki near the UN headquarters in New York. (credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

The three countries reached a breakthrough agreement on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid in June, with Turkey lifting its veto and Sweden and Finland agreeing to a set of steps to be taken to address Turkey's concerns.

During their meeting, Sullivan and Kalin also discussed "their support for peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the importance of dialog and diplomacy to resolve any disagreements in the Eastern Mediterranean, and their condemnation of Russia’s attempted, illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory," the statement said.