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 Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Vatican on Monday
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Vatican on Monday
Maurizio Molinari

ISTANBUL — Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a historic visit to Rome on Monday, the first time a Turkish leader has met the Pope at the Vatican in nearly six decades. But the visit to Italy, which included meetings with top Italian leaders, comes as Turkey's military is engaged in heavy conflict with Kurdish forces in the Afrin province in Syria. Meanwhile, major questions linger over Turkey's tense relationship with the West, and particularly the longstanding negotiations for Turkey to enter the European Union.

On the eve of the visit to Italy, Erdogan spoke exclusively with La Stampa editor-in-chief Maurizio Molinari. Here are excerpts from the interview, which took place in Istanbul's Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus:

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Geopolitics

NATO Entry For Sweden And Finland? Erdogan May Not Be Bluffing

When the two Nordic countries confirmed their intention to join NATO this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his plans to block the application. Accusing Sweden and Finland of' "harboring" some of his worst enemies may not allow room for him to climb down.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared opposition to Finland and Sweden entering NATO

Meike Eijsberg

-Analysis-

LONDON — When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his opposition to Finland and Sweden entering NATO, it took most of the West's top diplomatic experts by surprise — with the focus squarely on how Russia would react to having two new NATO members in the neighborhood. (So far, that's been a surprise too)

But now Western oversight on Turkey's stance has morphed into a belief in some quarters that Erdogan is just bluffing, trying to get concessions from the negotiations over such a key geopolitical issue.

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To be clear, any prospective NATO member requires the consent of all 30 member states and their parliaments. So Erdogan does indeed have a card to play, which is amplified by the sense of urgency: NATO, Sweden and Finland are keen to complete the accession process with the war in Ukraine raging and the prospect of strengthening the military alliance's position around the Baltic Sea.

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