Head of NATO calls on members to back Turkey on terror
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged member states to provide more support to Turkey in the face of security-related challenges and Ankara’s fight against terrorist groups in an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA) ahead of his official visit expected today. “There’s a lot of NATO presence in Turkey, but I call on the allies to provide even more support,” Stoltenberg said in the interview that took place at the NATO headquarters in Brussels and was published yesterday. The NATO chief said the aim of his visit to Ankara is to “to prepare for the upcoming [NATO] summit in Brussels in July,” and that he is expected to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, and also Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
STOLTENBERG said he highly values the visit to Turkey, as he sees the country it is “a highly valued and key ally for many reasons, not just for its strategic location.” He added that during the visit he will “discuss the preparations for the important summit where we will address issues like how we continue to adapt NATO to a more demanding security environment.”
He said that NATO functions with the solidarity principle “one for all and all for one” and added: “We have deployed missile batteries that are augmenting the missile air defenses of Turkey. We have Italy and Spain deploying Patriot batteries and also SAMP-T batteries, and we conduct surveillance flights with our AWACS planes over Turkey. We have also increased our naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean. There are also other NATO activities, including
infrastructure, exercises, and we have our land command in Izmir.” Stoltenberg said, while these activities and also political support is given by NATO, Turkey must still get more support from the allies “because Turkey is the NATO ally that has suffered the most from terrorist attacks.”
Stoltenberg said that a training mission will be established in Iraq to provide training to Iraqi soldiers and “help to build military academies and schools to help Iraqis stabilize their own country, fight terrorism,” while he added it is NATO’s desire for Turkey to also play a key role in the program.
Turkey has been fighting Daesh, the PKK, and the PKK’s Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), terrorist groups simultaneously. However, the Turkish government has criticized NATO allies, particularly the U.S., for a lack of support in the fight against terrorism. The U.S. sup-
ports the YPG in Syria under the pretext of fight against Daesh, which has strained ties between Ankara and Washington.
Stoltenberg highlighted Ankara’s determined stance against Daesh, saying Turkey’s efforts against Daesh have been “key in the fight against Daesh. Turkey has played a significant role in the efforts of NATO allies and the global coalition against Daesh.”
Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield to clear Daesh terrorists from northern Syria after the increasing attacks on Turkey from the group. Euphrates Shield was launched in Aug. 2016 and ended in March 2017, clearing a 2,000-kilometer-square area, including the towns of Jarablus, al-Bab, Dabiq, and al-Rai.
In addition, Turkey also launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 against the YPG in northwestern Afrin, to
eliminate the YPG. “We recognize Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, which we expect to be addressed in a proportionate and measured way. We all understand that Turkey has to address these threats,” Stoltenberg said. “We welcome that Turkey has been transparent and briefed NATO several times on the operation in Afrin, both the military operations and the humanitarian assistance,” he added.
Commenting on Turkey’s decision to purchase S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, Stoltenberg reiterated his previous comments on the issue, saying: “It is a national decision to acquire military equipment and capabilities and it is also a national decision to sell and to buy. So that is not decided by NATO, it is decided by allies.” He added that Turkey’s agreements with Italy and France in the EUROSAM consortium to start developing missile and air defense systems is “welcomed.”