NATO is committed to the defense of Turkey: Stoltenberg
Turkey is the NATO ally most exposed to violence and turmoil stemming from the Middle East and suffered a series of terrorist attacks, the NATO chief has stressed, vowing that the 29-nation alliance is committed to the defense of Turkey a day before his visit to the Turkish capital.
“Turkey, bordering Iraq and Syria, is the ally most exposed to violence and turmoil from the Middle East. Your country has also suffered a series of horrific terrorist attacks. All NATO allies stand together in our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Anadolu Agency in an interview on May 5.
Stoltenberg will pay a two-day visit to Turkey on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Mediterranean Dialogue where he will chair a North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting as well. The NATO chief will hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Stoltenberg and Çavuşoğlu will deliver a joint press conference following talks.
The NATO allies stand with Turkey as it faces serious security challenges by protecting Turkey with air and missile defense systems and patrolling Turkish air space by AWACS surveillance planes, Stoltenberg said. “At last month’s meeting of foreign ministers in Washington, we also agreed a package of possible actions to enhance the security of the Black Sea region. All this shows NATO’s commitment to the defense of Turkey,” he stated.
NATO appreciates Turkey
Turkey is actively contributing to the joint defense of the alliance and NATO appreciates what Turkey is doing to this end, the alliance leader said.
“Turkey joined the Alliance in 1952, and it continues to be a highly valued member of our family of nations. As secretary-general, I greatly appreciate all that Turkey does for our Alliance,” he underlined.
“Turkey also plays an important role in NATO’s new training mission in Iraq. It is strengthening Iraq’s security forces to help ensure that ISIS [ISIL] can never return,” Stoltenberg stressed, citing Turkey’s contributions to missions in Afghanistan, Western Balkans and Kosovo as examples.
S-400s challenging issue
On a question over an ongoing dispute between Turkey and the United States over the former’s plans to deploy Russian-made S-400 air defense systems, Stoltenberg described the matter as challenging.
“Decisions about military procurement are for nations to make. But, as I have said, interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions,” he said.
It’s important for NATO that key allies purchase equipment which is able to operate together, Stoltenberg said and encouraged the Turkish-American dialogue about the former’s possible acquisition of a U.S. patriot missile system.
“We must also remember that since 2013 NATO allies have been reinforcing Turkey’s air defenses. Spain and Italy have missile batteries deployed near Turkey’s southern border. Their Patriot and SAMP-T systems help defend Turkey against the threat of missiles from across the border with Syria. The mission is important and NATO allies are committed to it,” he added.
NATO ‘will remain a pillar of stability’
Stoltenberg highlighted that NATO marks its 70th anniversary and still is in a mission to respond to many challenges at the same time.
“Our world is changing and NATO is changing with it. But some things remain unchanged: Our commitment to one another endures, giving us the strength to overcome our differences and rise to any challenge. NATO will remain a pillar of stability in an uncertain world for future generations,” he said.