Turkey asks NATO secretary general to introduce safe haven issue to alliance’s agenda

Turkey asks NATO secretary general to introduce safe haven issue to alliance’s agenda

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA
Turkey asks NATO secretary general to introduce safe haven issue to alliance’s agenda

Jens Stoltenberg is holding his first visit to Turkey as NATO chief. He met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara on Oct. 9. AA Photo

Ankara has asked NATO to put the issue of a safe haven and no-fly zone in Syria on its agenda, diplomatic sources have told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu requested that the issue be discussed among allies during a meeting Oct. 9 with new NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who has been in talks with Turkish leaders. Stoltenberg is on his first visit to Turkey since assuming his new post earlier this month.

Ankara also plans to introduce the proposal in Brussels through Turkey’s permanent representative.
Asked about Turkey’s proposal for a safe haven and no-fly zone into Syria, Stoltenberg said the issue had yet to be discussed in NATO.

“We discussed this issue today during our meeting here. I believe there is no simple and straightforward way out of the problems we are seeing in Syria around Kobane these days. It has not been on the table in any NATO discussions yet; it is not an issue which has been discussed in NATO,” he said in a press conference after his meeting with Çavuşoğlu.

“I welcome decisive actions from several countries in the international effort fight against ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] by air strikes. I also welcome what Turkey has been doing in receiving refugees, and also the decision by the Turkish Parliament to authorize Turkey to take an even more active role,” Stoltenberg added.

“Our Patriot deployment reinforces Turkey’s air defense. NATO stands ready to support all allies in defending their security,” he said.

Turkish FM: No single-handed ground operation

Turkey cannot be expected to take action for a ground operation against jihadists on its own, Çavuşoğlu said, noting that the world needed to focus on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as fighting the jihadists.

“It’s not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own,” the foreign minister stated.

Çavusoglu said true peace could never be restored in Syria without the departure of “al-Assad and his regime.”

He said the current U.S.-led air strikes against jihadists would not be enough to bring peace to Syria and a ground operation in coordination with anti-ISIL Syrian rebels should be considered.

“Air strikes could reverse the balance of power and stop ISIL, but will not be enough to clear the region of ISIL,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“Therefore all other options, including a ground operation, should be considered and the Free Syrian Army should be supported,” he said, referring to the beleaguered anti-al-Assad rebel force.

Special US envoy visits Turkey

Meananwhile, Gen. John Allen, Washington’s special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL has met with Foreign Ministry Under Secretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu on Oct. 9.