VILNIUS — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Vilnius on Monday and held meetings with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. The discussions paved the way for Sweden to join NATO, signaling a significant development in the country’s potential membership.
Erdogan also engaged in a conversation with President Charles Michel of the European Council. Following their discussion, Michel took to Twitter to express that they had explored avenues to rejuvenate cooperation between the European Union and Turkey, aiming to elevate it to a prominent position once again.
During their meeting, Biden expressed his appreciation for Erdogan’s commitment to Sweden’s NATO membership, calling the NATO summit a “historic meeting.”
Biden commended Erdogan, saying, “I want to thank you for your diplomacy and your courage to take that on. And I want to thank you for your leadership.”
Erdogan, through a translator, stated that he saw the meeting as the first step in a new process and took the opportunity to wish Biden luck in the upcoming elections, prompting a lighthearted exchange between the leaders.
“With the forthcoming elections, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you the best of luck,” Erdogan told Biden.
This meeting marked the fourth encounter between Biden and Erdogan. They previously met on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels in June 2021, during the summit in Madrid in June 2022, and had a brief conversation during the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
Prior to the meeting with Biden, Erdogan held separate discussions with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, has been a crucial security partner for the United States. The country played a vital role in the fight against ISIS as a member of the anti-ISIS Coalition, providing access to its military bases in 2015, which proved instrumental in the defeat of the terrorist organization.
However, relations between Washington and Ankara soured following Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system. As a consequence, Turkey was removed from the F-35 program by the U.S., and the issue remains unresolved.
Trade between the United States and Turkey has been substantial. In 2021, Turkey’s exports to the United States reached nearly $15 billion, making the US its second-largest trading partner.
Conversely, Turkey ranked 25th among the U.S.’s trading partners, with a trade volume of $12.5 billion. The State Department acknowledges the trade relationship as “modest compared to its potential.”