NATO chief due in Ankara for first visit since coup attempt
ANKARANATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will pay a two-day visit to Ankara on Sept. 8 and 9 to both show the alliance’s support and solidarity with Turkey following the defeated coup attempt on July 15 and to discuss developments in Syria, after the Turkish army launched an incursion into its southern neighbor to fight against jihadists.
This will be Stoltenberg’s first visit to the Turkish capital since the coup attempt blamed on the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) sought to overthrow the government in mid-July and left more than 270 dead.
The NATO chief will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister Fikri Işık along with other high-level Turkish officials, the alliance said in a written statement on late Sept. 6. Stoltenberg will hold a joint press conference with Çavuşoğlu on Sept. 9.
The primary reason for the visit is to make clear that NATO, as an institution, stands with the democratically-elected Turkish government against coup plotters. Stoltenberg is expected to highlight Turkish democracy, as the Turkish people had demonstrated its loyalty to it on the night of July 15, and the significance of Turkey for the NATO alliance.
“Turkey is a valued NATO ally with whom I stand in solidarity in this difficult time,” Stoltenberg had said in a statement after the coup attempt, as he reiterated his full support to Turkey’s democratic institutions. In a separate statement, Stoltenberg had dismissed speculations over Turkey’s membership in the alliance being in doubt, stressing: “Turkey’s NATO membership is not in question. Our alliance is committed to collective defense and founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, human rights and the rule of law. NATO counts on the continued contributions of Turkey and Turkey can count on the solidarity and support of NATO.”
The visit will also give the head of the alliance an opportunity to gather information of the government’s massive purges within the army and the current of the state of NATO’s second largest army, as Turkey said the efficiency of its military will increase as these elements are removed.
Turkish troops in Syria
The NATO head’s visit comes as Turkey’s cross-border operation along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) into northern Syria which has fully cleared its border of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists enters its third week.
Turkish and NATO are expected to make an analysis of the impact of the Turkish move inside Syria to fight against ISIL and to overview the potential support the alliance can provide to Turkey.
In the last meeting in June, NATO had pledged to provide more support to strengthen Turkey’s air defense against potential threats to its territories originating from Syria.
In that regard, Turkey’s demand to establish a safe zone and no-fly zone inside Syria would also be discussed, although the United States has not endorsed the Turkish government’s proposal.