NATO eyes cooperation in fight against ISIL
Sevil Erkuş - ANTALYA
DHA PhotoThe NATO summit hosted in Turkey’s coastal province of Antalya, which gathered the alliance’s foreign ministers on May 13, saw joint calls for a more effective and coordinated struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the organization would examine “all possibilities” against ISIL terror.
“One of the important issues at this meeting, in different formats, will be how NATO can do even more in fighting terrorism and in fighting ISIL,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the start of the meeting.
Turkey also urged member states for action against ISIL as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stressed in his addressing to the ministers the challenge of escalating violence on Turkey’s borders, the southern border of the alliance.
“The Daesh threat grows, we see an increasing violence of terrorism at our doorstep,” Davutoğlu said, using the Arabic acronym of the jihadist group.
“As the only NATO country that shares a land border with Deesh-controlled areas, this terrorist organization is a direct threat to our national security,” he added.
Davutoğlu also called for a “comprehensive strategy” covering military, political, economic and humanitarian aspects, to tackle the root causes of ISIL violence.
He also said Turkey was ready to host the next NATO Summit, after next year’s meeting in Warsaw.
The Turkish prime minister met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on May 13 in Antalya ahead of the NATO meeting.
Kerry said that defining a “clearer” security arrangement between Gulf countries and the United States is critical to fighting terrorism.
“Defining ... a clearer defense arrangement between the GCC and other friendly countries and the U.S. is going to be critical to helping to push back against terrorism, violence and some of the other activities that take place in the region that are unsettling all of those countries,” Kerry told reporters.
Kerry was due to take part in a later summit with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.
Speaking late on May 12, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also called for determined action from NATO member states against the terrorist group.
“Turkey is the only member of the alliance to have borders with Daesh. This is not a sustainable situation. It poses a significant threat to us,” Çavuşoğlu said, noting that he would share the issue with NATO allies during the two-day gathering.
US commander: On same page as Turkey
Meanwhile, U.S. Officer and Commander of U.S. European Command Philip Breedlove said he visited the U.S. training team in Turkey for the train-equip program of moderate Syrian opposition fighters.
“I was impressed with the team and with the facilities provided by the Turkish military. I was impressed with the preparations of the team, their understanding of the mission and supplies,” Breedlove told reporters on May 13 in Antalya, declining to elaborate on the start date of the program “as this is not decided.”
“But all preparations are ready,” he added.
Asked whether the U.S. was on the “same page” as Turkey regarding factions within the Syrian opposition to train, the U.S. commander only said the goal is “to help Syrians defend Syria.”
“The goal is to help those who share our approach in Syria and to help train and equip them to defend themselves. We are on same page as Turkey. I am surprised at that question. We are closely aligned,” Breedlove said.
“We are very closely aligned on all topics of conversation. Turkey is an important ally. It is in a difficult geographic position. We discussed all areas of our cooperation,” he added.
Elaborating on Turkey’s talks with China to acquire a new missile defense system, Breedlove said Turkey is a “sovereign nation” and can make its own decision to buy any system it wants.
“It is not appropriate for me to comment on which one they should buy. As NATO commander and a U.S. officer working with the U.S. system, I have been clear about advantages of having a NATO system that you can plug into, with a lot of benefits to being able to connect to the larger European network. We committed PATRIOTS in 2013 and we remain committed to that,” Breedlove said.