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Zelensky set to meet Turkey’s Erdogan as Ukraine pushes NATO goals

President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to hold talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday on the latest leg of a tour to push Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and secure more weapons from allies.

The talks in Istanbul come on the eve of the 500th day since Russian’s invasion, with Zelensky admitting a widely anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive was progressing slowly. But nevertheless, we are advancing, not retreating, like Russians,” Zelensky told reporters. “We now have the initiative.”

The talks with Erdogan — an important broker in the conflict — are due to focus on an expiring deal to ship Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea as well as next week’s NATO summit.

Analysts expect Zelensky to push Erdogan to give a green light for Sweden’s NATO membership ahead of the July 11-12 meet in Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Turkey is blocking Sweden’s candidacy because of a longstanding dispute about Stockholm’s perceived lax attitude toward alleged Kurdish militants living in the Nordic country.

Zelensky is seeking NATO accession for his own country, which has been battling a Russian invasion since February 2022, and has said he wants the summit to lead to an “invitation” to join the bloc.

Both Zelensky and Erdogan want to extend a United Nations and Turkey-brokered deal with Russia under which Ukraine has been allowed to ship grain to global markets during the war.

The deal will expire on July 17 unless Russia agrees to its renewal. Erdogan has tried to leverage good working relations with both Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to mediate an end to the war. Turkey staged two early rounds of peace negotiations and is pushing for more talks.

Before visiting Prague on Thursday, Zelensky travelled to Sofia to discuss weapons deliveries with Bulgaria, a major supporter and ammunitions producer. Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted that he had spoken by phone to US Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.

The two “talked about new projects related to supplying various types of ammunition. Stay tuned for the good news,” Reznikov wrote.

But human rights groups condemned the plan, saying the bomblets can go undetonated and remain at the location for years, posing threats to civilians. In Russia, the Kremlin criticised Zelensky’s visit to Bulgaria, saying the Ukrainian leader was trying to “drag” other countries into the war.

Source: News365

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