NATO in good health, not brain dead: Turkish defense minister
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is in full health and not experiencing a brain death, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said, in reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s criticisms on the state of NATO amid ongoing spat between Ankara and Paris over Libya.
“The alliance enjoys good health. It is not experiencing a brain death. NATO’s strength is due to is its successful adaptation to the changing security environment. Statements like ‘NATO is experiencing brain death’ are not appropriate at a moment when 30 NATO allies, including France, are struggling on land, in air and at sea with its civilian and military elements for the world and regional peace,” Akar said over the weekend as he visited Libya and Malta.
Akar conveyed this message from the Giresun warship off Libya in an address to the crew. Akar, accompanied with Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler and other top military officials, spent the night on board.
Macron, in a statement last year, described the alliance as suffering from a brain death and urged the NATO leaders to revive the security pact.
Akar’s statements came as ties between Turkey and France are in an unprecedented strain, with two sides accusing each other of playing a dangerous game in Libya. Turkey is supporting the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and France is backing General Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Tobruk.
Tension between the two allies has been brought to the agenda of NATO after France complained that Turkish warships have targeted a French frigate to stop it inspecting a Tanzanian-flagged vessel on suspicion that it was smuggling weapons to Libya. Turkey denied all the accusations. A report prepared by NATO experts did not support the French version of the incident, causing the French withdrawal from the Sea Guardian mission in the Mediterranean.
‘France is conspiring against Turkey’
Citing the incident and the report, Akar said it has been revealed that France was in an effort to conspire against Turkey in line with its political calculations, adding, “Therefore we say that France has to apologize to Turkey.”
In his address, the defense minister also mentioned a long-standing dispute with Greece over the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea that escalates tension between the two neighbors from time to time.
“Greece’s arming 16 islands out of 23 and pledging a military status to these islands in violation of international laws is unacceptable. It’s an overt breach of the Lausanne Treaty,” Akar said.
There is no country other than Greece who claims that its airspace is 10 miles while its territorial waters is six miles, Akar stated, also criticizing Athens for claiming the sovereignty of all islands, islets and rocks in the Aegean Sea although there is no agreement on their status.
“We are not going to allow any fait accompli in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Cyprus. Everybody should be aware that there will be no solution in which Turkey is not part of. Turkey is a guarantor country of Cyprus and will never allow that its rights and interests are overridden,” he stated.
[HH] ‘Haftar’s dreams collapsed’
Earlier in the day, Akar addressed the Turkish troops in Libya, stressing Turkey’s job was to provide military training and consulting to the Libyan government.
“Putschist Haftar was about to realize his dream to rule the entire Libya. But this has been prevented as the balance has changed [on the field] with your contributions,” Akar said. Criticizing Haftar and his backers, such as Egypt, for fighting shy through fake ceasefire calls, the minister said, “Their intention is not finding a solution, unity and togetherness at all. They are after their personal interests.”
In his talks with the GNA officials, Akar stressed Turkey’s presence in Libya is to do whatever the international law and justice require.
“Turkey is together with their Libyan brothers. No one should doubt it, we will not give up on it,” Akar said. Akar and Güler visited Tripoli’s Mitiga Hospital, which was frequently targeted by the attacks of warlord Khalifa Haftar’s militias, and met the Turkish health care staff at the hospital.