NATO at the center of Turkey’s security, says defense minister
Turkey is putting NATO at the center of its security while sharing all of its values and burden, the Turkish defense minister has said just a few days before the NATO leaders’ summit, recalling that the Turkish army ranks atop in terms of force contribution to the alliance’s missions.
“By sharing the burden and all the values of the alliance, Turkey is putting NATO at the center of its own security and at the same time is at the center of NATO’s security,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said at the opening of NATO’s Maritime Security Center of Excellence in Istanbul on June 11.
Akar’s statement came a day after he had a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and days before the NATO leaders will convene at a summit where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold bilateral talks with U.S. President Joe Biden as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“As you know, this is a NATO Summit, and we as NATO members will primarily discuss what we did, what we are doing, and what we will do in the future,” Erdoğan told reporters in Istanbul on June 11. “As for the meeting with President Biden, we will find the chance to raise our bilateral relations,” he said.
Informing that his meeting with Biden will take place after the end of the NATO Summit on late June 14 and that he will depart to Azerbaijan from Belgium, Erdoğan said he would meet Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in the province of Shusha where the two men will sign a comprehensive bilateral agreement.
Raison d’etre of NATO
Speaking about the summit in Brussels, Akar stressed, “We as Turkey believe that NATO is surviving its raison d’etre and increasing its importance. The alliance must therefore be further strengthened and work in the spirit of a true ally.”
The minister said Turkey ranked among the top five nations participating in NATO’s missions, operations as well as in its command centers and headquarters with nearly 3,000 personnel.
“In particular, I would like to point out that despite its preoccupation with the risks, threats and dangers in its region, Turkey continues to contribute uninterruptedly to the exercises, force structure and staff of the Alliance, and does whatever it takes to protect NATO and Europe’s borders against terrorism, smuggling and human trafficking,” he stated.
Turkey left alone in its anti-terror fight
Akar also criticized some NATO allies for ignoring the terror danger posed by the PKK/YPG, although they were committed to fighting terror in other parts of the world.
“Turkey has issued so many calls to its allies to fight together in northern Syria against the actions of the PKK/YPG and DAESH which threaten the country’s national security and regional stability. We have repeatedly suggested to our NATO allies the creation of a safe zone in Syria, and together we agreed on some plans. However, these agreements were not fulfilled, and Turkey was left alone in the fight against terrorism,” Akar stated.
The minister referred to the U.S. decision to partner with the YPG in the fight against ISIL in Syria despite Ankara’s opposition. Turkey sees the YPG as the PKK’s affiliation in Syria and, therefore, as a terror organization.
Turkey’s expectation is for the allies to act in coordination and together against the terrorist organizations in the region, he recalled.
S-400 problem can resolve
The Turkish top soldier also evaluated the ongoing dispute between Turkey and the U.S. over the former’s deployment of the Russian S-400 air defense system. Turkey’s attempt to procure the Patriot missile system from the U.S. and SAMP-T from a French-Italian consortium have remained futile, and that’s why Turkey had to buy and deploy the Russian systems in a bid to protect its air space, he stated.
“We have repeatedly stressed that we are ready to address the technical concerns of our allies. We are open and transparent in our talks. Reasonable and logical solutions are always possible,” he said.
Turkey’s contribution to NATO and NATO’s cooperation with Turkey is much more complex, deeper and beyond the ongoing disagreement over the S-400s/F-35s, the minister said, recalling that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was also of this opinion.
“In conclusion, NATO is more meaningful and stronger with Turkey and will take firmer steps towards the future,” he added.