On his first visit to Turkey after being appointed two years ago, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated Washington’s support for Sweden and Finland’s rapid accession to NATO.

The Nordic country’s bid to join the military alliance has been blocked by Ankara, which says Stockholm in particular has harbored the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group.

US-Turkey relations have been strained in recent years, but Washington has recently seen Ankara as helpful for its mediating role between Russia and Ukraine after Moscow’s invasion.

“The United States highly values ​​Turkey’s contribution as a long-standing and active member of the NATO alliance, and we will continue to work together to strengthen and grow our alliance, including through the accession of Sweden and Finland, which will help deliver even stronger, and more capable assets to the alliance, Blinken said.

While the US secretary of state said both countries have taken steps to fulfill the commitments they have made, his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said more concrete steps are needed to win its support.

– Our problems with Finland are relatively smaller (than with Sweden). So, the calendar that you have shared with you of the NATO summit in Vilnius, these are tied to the steps to be taken by Sweden, Cavusoglu said.

Both Helsinki and Stockholm abandoned their neutrality after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year and applied to join NATO. All existing members of the transatlantic alliance must ratify its enlargement.