NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on all allies to provide more support to Turkey, ahead of his official visit to the country scheduled for April 16 with the purpose of preparing the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels in July.
“Turkey is important for NATO but NATO is also important for Turkey. The alliance is based on the core principle of one for all and all for one. There’s a lot of NATO presence in Turkey but I call on the allies to provide even more support,” Stoltenberg told state-run Anadolu Agency in an interview at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“I really look forward to my visit to Ankara because Turkey is a highly valued and key ally for many reasons, not just for its strategic location. This makes it important to sit down with Turkish leaders and discuss the preparations for the important summit where we will address issues, like how we continue to adapt NATO to a more demanding security environment,” he said.
He noted that NATO supports Turkey in many ways.
“We have assurance measures, we have deployed missile batteries, which are augmenting Turkey’s missile air defenses. We have Italy and Spain deploying Patriot batteries and also SAMP-T batteries and we conduct surveillance flights with our AWACS planes over Turkey,” Stoltenberg said, adding they have also increased their naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean.
“There are other NATO activities, including infrastructure, exercises, and we have our land command in İzmir,” he added.
Stoltenberg also noted that allies provide political support because “Turkey is the NATO ally that has suffered the most from the terrorist attacks.”
The secretary general recalled NATO immediately condemned the coup attempt that targeted Turkey’s democratic institutions.
Turkey’s contribution to NATO missions
Stoltenberg praised Turkey’s participation in NATO’s shared security and collective security.
“We are grateful for Turkish contributions to different NATO missions and operations, not the least, for instance, in Afghanistan and Kosovo,” said the secretary general.
“The fact that Turkey provides infrastructure and air bases close to the border with Iraq and Syria has been key in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant [ISIL],” he said.
According to Stoltenberg, Turkey has played a significant role in the efforts of NATO allies and the global coalition against ISIL.
Stoltenberg told the news service they were now working on establishing a mission in Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers and to build military academies and schools to help Iraqis stabilize their own country and fight terrorism.
“That is important for allies, including Turkey. Turkey has been very supportive of the idea. Of course, Turkey is now part of the planning and decision-making process. I have discussed this before with Turkish authorities. It is too early to say what kind of role Turkey will play, but I hope Turkey can contribute to the training activities,” he said.
As far as Ankara’s military action in Syria is concerned, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch,” the NATO chief commented that they recognize Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and understand Turkey has to address these threats.
“We expect those security concerns to be addressed in a proportionate and measured way. We welcome that Turkey has been transparent and briefed NATO several times on the operation in Afrin, both on military operations and humanitarian assistance,” he said.
Regarding tensions between two NATO allies, Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea, Stoltenberg stressed that he expected differences on some issues to be solved in the spirit of good relations.
“I welcome that the PMs of both countries have recently held a phone conversation and that they have agreed to resolve these differences through dialogue,” he said, adding it is not an issue for NATO and this is something that has to be addressed between Turkey and Greece.
During the interview, Stoltenberg also commented on the EU’s effort to step up its defense.
“I have welcomed increased EU efforts on defense because it can strengthen NATO and the European pillar at NATO. But at the same time, I have underlined clearly that this has to be done in a transparent way,” the secretary general said.
“European leaders have clearly stated that this is not about creating an alternative to NATO. It is important that this is done in a way, which does not create new barriers towards non-EU allies, such as Turkey,” he said.