Erdogan Says Ukraine ‘Deserves NATO Membership’

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ISTANBUL — President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited Turkey on Friday to talk to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey about supporting Ukraine’s application for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and helping to extend the Black Sea grain deal.

In a televised news conference early Saturday morning after a meeting between the leaders, Mr. Erdogan said that “Ukraine deserves NATO membership with no doubt.”

Mr. Zelensky also visited several other NATO nations over the past few days ahead of the alliance’s two-day summit next week during which the Ukrainian president hopes to get clarity on his bid to join.

The government in Kyiv views membership in NATO as the ultimate guarantee of its security; its application in September to join the alliance was made against the backdrop of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

President Biden, who is scheduled to attend the summit during a trip to Europe next week, said in a CNN interview set to be broadcast on Sunday that Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO would most likely have to wait until after the war.

“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Mr. Biden said, according to an excerpt published by CNN.

Because of the alliance’s bedrock commitment to mutual defense, he said, if Ukraine were admitted to NATO now, the allies would be pulled into the war. “If the war is going on, then we’re all in war,” he said. “We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”

Mr. Zelensky was also in Istanbul to talk about the Black Sea grain deal, which is once again facing an uncertain future. Mr. Erdogan said that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was expected to visit Turkey in August and that he was working to try to extend the grain deal for longer intervals.

“Our hope is that it will be extended at least once every three months, not every two months,” he said. “We will make an effort in this regard and try to increase the duration of it.”

Turkey and the United Nations brokered the deal last year to allow Ukrainian grain to be exported through the Russian blockade in the Black Sea. Moscow has repeatedly threatened to abandon the agreement, saying that it impedes Russia’s own exports, but last-minute extensions have so far kept the deal alive. An extension agreed upon in May expires on July 17.

In a boost for Mr. Zelensky, a provisional deal was reached on Friday by the European Parliament and member states to spend 500 million euros, or almost $550 million, to bolster production of ammunition and missiles. The agreement is part of a plan put forward in March, and the bloc hopes to have it passed by the end of the month.

Mr. Zelensky has been on a diplomatic offensive this week to NATO members. He visited Bulgaria and the Czech Republic on Thursday. On Friday, before heading to Istanbul, Mr. Zelensky stopped in Slovakia and met with President Zuzana Caputova and praised the cooperation between their countries.

Cassandra Vinograd and Anushka Patil contributed reporting.

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