By Katherine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. 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 previously unannounced to the media, also discussed Turkey’s opposition to Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.

Turkey, a NATO member, has enacted diplomatic balancing acts since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both its Black Sea neighbors Moscow and Kyiv. It has also criticized Russia’s aggression and sending armed drones into Ukraine.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the military alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but NATO ally Turkey expressed concern over their candidacy.

The three countries reached a landmark deal on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Madrid in June, with Turkey removing its veto and Sweden and Finland agreeing to take some steps to address Turkey’s concerns.

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

(Reporting by Kathryn Jackson; Editing by Lisa Schumacher)

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