Turkey calls on NATO to update for anti-terror fight
A comprehensive updating of NATO is inevitable given the rise in terrorist threats, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said. His comments, made just a day before NATO’s 70th-anniversary summit in London, signaled that his administration will continue to block NATO defense plans for the Baltic nations until the alliance recognizes the YPG as a terror organization.
“It’s inevitable that NATO should update itself in accordance with today’s security priorities. In this frame, we are expecting a very strong solidarity from our allies against the threats we are facing. We should, all together, be able to undergo a change for a principled and united stance against the terror organizations,” Erdoğan told reporters before his departure to London to attend the summit.
Erdoğan is leading a crowded delegation that includes foreign and defense ministers Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Hulusi Akar, as well as other key officials. He was scheduled to attend a four-way meeting with the participation of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson later on Dec 3. The NATO leaders will come together at a meeting early on Dec. 4 at the celebratory summit.
The summit comes at a difficult moment for the alliance due to many in-house problems and rooted divergences between the allies.
Despite criticisms of Turkey’s recent unilateral military operation into Syria, President Erdoğan recalled the importance of Turkey for the NATO missions.
“Although some ill-intended circles are trying to cast a shadow on our membership to NATO, our place and stance (in NATO) is well-known,” Erdoğan stated. “Our contributions since 1952 clearly display our indispensable status within the NATO. We have not taken and we won’t take any ill-intended discussions on our country into consideration.”
Turkey indispensable member of NATO’
The ongoing conflict in Syria, which has long been triggering the flow of irregular refugees into Europe, are important sources of instability of the Euro-Atlantic zone, and Turkey’s role in curbing this influx should be better acknowledged, President Erdoğan stressed.
“In this respect, our country is indispensable to NATO. In such a strategic picture, a sincere solidarity to be shown by our allies will not weaken our allies; on the contrary, will strengthen it. We will convey this message to our allies in a very open way in London and will ask them to show a principled stance against terrorism,” he said.
Turkey is among five top allies that most actively participate in NATO missions and fulfills all its economic and military requirements, the president noted.
Meeting with Poland and Baltic leaders
President Erdoğan said that he had a phone conversation with Polish President Andrzej Duda late on Dec. 2 and agreed to come together at a meeting with him and the leaders of the Baltic nations.
The move follows Turkey’s decision to block the issuance of a defense plan prepared by NATO for Poland and the Baltic states against threats posed by Russia. Turkey has stressed that it vetoed the release of the plan after another defense plan prepared for Turkey was blocked by the United States because it did not want to depict the YPG as a terrorist threat.
Turkey has designated the YPG/PYD as a terror band because it functions as the PKK’s Syrian associate. Unlike the YPG/PYD, the PKK is recognized as a terror group by the U.S. and European Union.
“If this issue would come to the agenda, our stance will be the same. Nothing has changed. They should not be offended if the NATO does not recognize those groups we consider as terrorists… We will continue to recognize them as terrorists,” the Turkish president stated.
Erdoğan said that he will be happy to meet with the leaders of Poland and the Baltic countries but said, “We may discuss these issues with them, too. But if our friends at NATO do not recognize the terror organizations we are fighting against as terrorists, then we’ll stand against any sort of steps to be taken there.”
Indirect message to Macron
In his statement, Erdoğan urged NATO leaders to avoid making statements that would undermine the importance of the alliance, in reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s characterization of the current state of the alliance as “brain dead.”
“(Leaders) should refrain from populist statements that would hurt the strength of the alliance and NATO’S deterrence. The member states should engage in efforts to further strengthen the NATO instead of seeking alternatives to it,” he added.
Resettlement of Syrians
President Erdoğan said that his meetings with French, German and British leaders will also focus on Turkey’s efforts to create a safe zone in northwestern Syria for the return of Syrians to their homeland.
“We will find an opportunity to inform them [of] the latest about the Operation Peace Spring and about our projects for the return of the Syrian asylum seekers. We will underline our commitment to fighting against the PKK/YPG terrorism one again,” he said.