Türkiye's support to Ukraine has reduced "some of the effects of brutal war," the NATO chief said on Thursday, commending Ankara's efforts for prisoner swap and the Black Sea grain deal.
"I want to thank Türkiye for all its support to Ukraine. The cutting-edge drones and ships built here in Türkiye are helping to uphold Ukraine’s right to self-defence," said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul.
"Türkiye is a highly valued NATO ally and making important contributions to our shared security. You play a major role in the fight against terrorism, including in our mission in Iraq," he said.
Stoltenberg hailed Türkiye and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "for negotiating safe passage for Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, easing the global food crisis," saying that implementation of the grain deal demonstrates the "important role" Türkiye plays in the conflict in Ukraine.
Ankara's "diplomatic efforts are supporting and enabling" the grain deal, he said, and exchange of prisoners were "extremely important" in reducing "some of the effect of the brutal war going on in Ukraine."
For his part, Cavusoglu recalled that the Black Sea grain export deal needs to be renewed in 20 days and affirmed Türkiye's continued efforts to ensure that the deal is implemented uninterrupted.
Emphasizing that it is "very important" to keep the commitments made to Russia on exports of its grain and fertilizers, Cavusoglu said such move would not mean supporting Moscow but instead abiding by the deal.
"Russian grain and fertilizers are needed by the entire world, mostly by the least developed countries," he added.
"It is imperative to resort to diplomacy despite all challenges for clashes to end," he stressed.
On Saturday, Russia announced that it would suspend its participation in the deal for what it alleged was a Ukrainian attack on its Black Sea fleet at the port of Sevastopol. Moscow returned to the deal on Wednesday after a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Over 10 million tons of grain has been sent through the landmark deal so far.
Sweden, Finland's NATO membership bids
On Sweden and Finland's bid to join NATO, the Turkish foreign minister said not all parts of the trilateral memorandum signed at the Madrid summit in June have been implemented.
"We should show our nation and the parliament that these countries (Sweden and Finland) have taken concrete steps to address our concerns," Cavusoglu said.
Türkiye, he said, is aware of the positive steps taken by both Nordic countries.
"Our intent is not to harm NATO or prevent NATO's enlargement. Secretary general knows very well that Türkiye has been one of the most steadfast supporters of NATO's enlargement at all summits. We've been very clear about NATO enlargement and our support for it," Cavusoglu said.
He urged Sweden and Finland to take especially concrete steps in fight against terrorism as "it is also one of the top priorities of NATO."
The top Turkish diplomat also announced that the second trilateral meeting between Türkiye, Sweden and Finland will take place in Stockholm.
Stoltenberg said the Nordic countries are living up to the joint memorandum as he urged for their full membership.
"Their accession will make our alliance stronger and our people safer," he added.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in June, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine.
However, Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the two countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.
Sweden and Finland struck a deal with Türkiye in June, and Erdogan has warned Türkiye will not give the nod to their memberships until Ankara's concerns are addressed.
The trilateral agreement stipulates that Sweden and Finland will not provide support to the YPG/PYD, the PKK's Syrian offshoot, and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup attempt in Türkiye. The deal also said Ankara extends full support to Sweden and Finland against threats to their national security.
The Nordic countries have both agreed to address Ankara's pending deportation or extradition requests for terror suspects.
All 30 standing NATO allies need to approve any expansion of the bloc.
Source: Anadolu Agency