NATO calls on Turkey to join EU sanctions against Russia as Putin visits Ankara

NATO calls on Turkey to join EU sanctions against Russia as Putin visits Ankara

Sevil Erkuş BRUSSELS
NATO calls on Turkey to join EU sanctions against Russia as Putin visits Ankara

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Dec. 1. AFP Photo

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has voiced his expectations from Turkey to join the economic sanctions campaign against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.

 His comments come on the day when Russia and Turkey were set to hold talks to increase the trade volume from the current $33 billion to $100 billion by 2020.

“Of course I’d like to see as many countries as possible be part of this, to support the sanctions. It’s important that it has an effect,” Stoltenberg replied to questions at a press conference on Dec. 1 regarding Turkey’s efforts to boost trade with Russia while the Western bloc is united to impose sanctions on Russia.

 Sanctions are not decided by NATO, but by the European Union and the U.S., Stoltenberg stressed, noting he welcomes these measures. “I believe there has to be consequences when a country is responsible for these kinds of aggressive actions that we have seen in Ukraine [committed] by Russia.”

 Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine has prompted international uproar and led to the imposition of consecutive sanctions against Moscow by the EU. Turkey announced that it would not join the sanctions as a matter of principle, and intensified talks with Russia on how it could fill the gap created by the EU’s sanctions.

 Stoltenberg’s statement came as the Turkish and Russian presidents were scheduled to have in detail talks to multiply and diversify bilateral trade, as well as seek new fields of cooperation.   

 “Russia has a choice, either it continues to violate international law while becoming ever more isolated, or it reasserts the implementation of international agreements and its commitments, restoring cooperation with the world,” Stoltenberg said.

 He said Russia has been sending large amounts of weapons to rebels in eastern Ukraine and warned about “a major increase in Russian military activity around Europe and beyond.”

NATO ready to assist Iraq

 Another important message given by the secretary-general on the eve of NATO’s foreign ministerial meetings to take place Dec. 2 and 3 is on the alliance’s readiness to support Iraq to boost its defense capacity in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

 The alliance’s headquarters will host a meeting of coalition members on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial meeting on Dec. 3, at which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will also participate.

 In reply to a question as to whether the alliance will play a further role in the coalition beyond hosting the upcoming meeting, Stoltenberg said there has been no such request yet.

“This is a coalition led by the U.S., not a NATO coalition. There has been no request for a NATO role in the fight against ISIL in Syria,” he said.

“What we have said is we are ready to provide help and assistance to the government of Iraq and help them enhance their defense capacity,” Stoltenberg said.

The meeting of NATO foreign ministers that will begin Dec. 2 is at a decisive time for the Alliance’s security, the secretary general said noting that Allies will be reviewing progress on a Readiness Action Plan to deal with challenges from both the east and the south.

The secretary-general said he expected to see four concrete outcomes from the ministerial meeting: an agreement on continuous NATO presence in the eastern part of the Alliance next year, an announcement of an interim Spearhead Force to enhance NATO’s readiness, strong political and practical support for Ukraine and the launch of a new mission in Afghanistan, the Resolute Support mission.

The High Readiness Joint Task Force, or the Spearhead Force, will become fully operational in 2016, the secretary-general noted. Germany, the Netherlands and Norway will take part in the creation of the interim Spearhead Force, according to Stoltenberg.