NATO holds emergency talks on Turkey's Syria campaign

NATO holds emergency talks on Turkey's Syria campaign

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
NATO holds emergency talks on Turkeys Syria campaign

AP Photo

NATO was holding an emergency meeting at Turkey's request on July 28 to discuss Ankara's military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Syria. 

Turkey, the alliance's only Muslim member and one of its most powerful, called for consultations with its allies after a bloody attack it blamed on "terrorists" in the southern town of Suruç last week.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian NATO Secretary General, was set to briefly address the media at 0900 GMT before the meeting of ambassadors from all 28 NATO countries.
Turkey is likely to face questions at the NATO meeting over its decision to lump its campaigns against the Kurds and ISIL together into a broad "war on terror", even though the secular Kurdish groups and the Islamist ISIL organisation are themselves bitterly opposed.
Stoltenberg told the BBC on July 26 that "self-defence has to be proportionate" and that Turkey had not asked for military help.
The meeting comes a day after the United States and previously reluctant Turkey agreed to work together to drive ISIL out of northern Syria in a potentially game-changing accord.
But at the same time Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu vowed to press ahead with strikes against the PKK until the group disarmed.
Shattering a 2012 truce, Turkish forces allegedly shelled a Kurdish-held village in northern Syria on July 27 while its warplanes continued to pound Kurdish targets in northern Iraq.
Following the July 27 agreement, a senior US official told AFP that Ankara and Washington aimed to establish an ISIL-free zone "and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey's border with Syria".
Details of the zone "remain to be worked out", said the official during a visit by US President Barack Obama to Ethiopia, adding that joint efforts would not include Turkey's demand for the imposition of a no-fly zone.
Turkey would support US "partners on the ground" already fighting ISIL jihadists, the official added.
Turkey called for the Julu 28 meeting of all 28 NATO member ambassadors at the Brussels HQ under what is known as Article 4.    

The US-led military alliance held similar meetings -- again at Turkey's request -- in 2003 over the Iraq war and in 2012, when the allies agreed to deploy Patriot anti-missile batteries along its southern border to boost defences against any overspill from the Syria conflict.
Turkey would support US "partners on the ground" already fighting ISIL jihadists, the official added.
But the accord and Turkey's military action against the Kurds have raised doubts over its priorities, namely whether it is more interested in limiting Kurdish capabilities in Syria and Iraq than tackling ISIL.
"We will continue our fight until we obtain a certain result," Davutoğlu told ATV television, urging the Kurdish separatists to deliver on a 2013 promise to lay down arms.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that Turkey had a "right to defend itself" against the PKK, which the US also labels a terrorist organisation.
French President Francois Hollande said on July 27 that Turkey must "be careful not to confuse the target".
Stoltenberg also cautioned Ankara about burning bridges with the Kurds. "For years there has been progress to try to find a peaceful political solution," he told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK.
Still, Turkey's military campaign is a major turning point and Davutoğlu said Ankara's intervention in Iraq and Syria would "change the balance" in the region.
Turkey has also given the United States the green light to use its İncirlik air base to attack ISIL after months of tough negotiations.    

Davutoğlu ordered the air strikes and artillery barrages after a devastating suicide bombing last week in a Turkish town close to the Syrian border that killed 32 people. Ankara blamed the attack on ISIL.
The bombing in the predominantly Kurdish town of Suruç incensed Turkey's Kurds, who have long accused the government of colluding with ISIL, allegations the authorities categorically deny.
The PKK said a truce between the government and the militants that has largely held since 2013, while peace talks were ongoing, had been rendered meaningless by the attacks.