NATO official sees vital need for rebuilding of trust between Turkey, allies

NATO official sees vital need for rebuilding of trust between Turkey, allies

Emine Kart ANKARA
NATO official sees vital need for rebuilding of trust between Turkey, allies He might have maintained his diplomatic grace, but veteran French politician Pierre Lellouche left no room for doubt in expressing his view that there is a strong need for a rebuilding of trust between Turkey and its allies in the fight against jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Lellouche, former secretary of state for European affairs and foreign trade of France and former president of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), underlined that the destruction in Syria, “which has always been a mosaic of small ethnic groups,” is “abysmal,” with 4 million refugees spread to neighboring countries.

“To reconstruct this would take a lot of time. There will probably be more violence as foreign fighters are coming into the country, and what I want to really insist is that we are not going to go through this enormously difficult period without trust. Trust between the allies, the Europeans and the Turks in particular,” Lellouche said in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News.

Lellouche and Guy-Michel Chauveau, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly, were in Ankara earlier this week in their capacity as members of NATO PA’s Political Committee. The two held separate talks with both Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz before traveling to the southern province of Adana to visit İncirlik Airbase, with Ankara saying it would consider allowing its use by the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “only” as part of a “comprehensive process.” The two MPs also visited refugee camps hosting Syrian people.

“But I sympathize with some of the interrogation I heard from my Turkish speakers today the way that America is going; we do not know either. It will be interesting to see where they will be going with Iran if they sign a deal this month. But clearly we need to rebuild trust,” Lellouche said.

The veteran politician, who has been paying visits to Turkey for the last three decades, declined to comment on charges against Turkey over its alleged, tacit support to ISIL.

When asked whether they intend to ignore the matter for the sake of a stronger cooperation or aim at openly addressing the issue, he said, “We do not know this nor do we ignore the fact that we can’t use an airbase that is very close to the area of operation, our pilots have to fly nine hours to do a mission today, whereas this major NATO [member country’s] base is there.”

Lellouche acknowledged that they have brought up the issue regarding the İncirlik Airbase during their talks with Turkish officials.

Turkey chose China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp. as a preferred bidder in 2013 to build a missile defense system, prompting Western concerns about security and the compatibility of the weaponry with NATO infrastructure. NATO countries, particularly the United States, objected to the idea, pointing to the fact that the systems will not be integrated with the alliance’s defense structure.

“Little ambiguity is preferable, when you are in a situation of collective danger like this; because this is affecting Turkey and affecting us, it is better to not have too many ambiguities,” Lellouche said.

When asked whether there are more ambiguities with Turkey in his opinion, he said: “Quite a few; I think you know them.”