NATO should stand by its member Turkey and “meet its expectations,” including demands for air defense protection on its southern borders, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said.
“NATO should meet Turkey’s expectations as well. We expect [NATO] to meet our expectations regarding the issue of air defense,” Çavuşoğlu said on April 16 at a joint press conference in Ankara with visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
A Turkish diplomat familiar with the meeting earlier in the day told the Hürriyet Daily News that Çavuşoğlu was referring to the ongoing NATO protection mission on Turkey’s southern border with Syria. The official recalled thatSpain and Italy have deployed air defense systems on the border and the mission is extended every year. Ankara expects the “regular” presence of these systems on the border, the diplomat added.
Çavuşoğlu, also vowed that Turkey would continue in NATO’s missions abroad, in an apparent reference to NATO’s demand for contribution to the alliance’s planned training mission in Iraq. “We expect important decisions to be taken at the upcoming NATO summit,” he said.
Stoltenberg was visiting Ankara ahead of a NATO leader’s summit in Brussels in July, and he said the Iraqi mission will be part of the upcoming summit.
“At the summit in July we plan to launch a NATO training mission in Iraq, helping local forces to stabilize their own country and prevent international terrorist threats like [ISIL] from coming back. I count on Turkey’s support in launching the mission and Turkey’s future contribution to the mission,” he said at the press conference.
He also stressed the “essential contributions” that Turkey has been making to NATO operations in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying Ankara is “a highly valued and key ally for many reasons.”
“Turkey does a lot for alliance, despite facing serious security challenges. No other NATO ally has suffered as many terrorist attacks as Turkey. You are the ally most exposed to instability in this region,” Stoltenberg said.
“Minister Çavuşoğlu briefed me on ‘Operation Olive Branch’ and I am grateful for Turkey’s continued transparency on this,” he added, referring to the Turkish military’s recent operation into the northern Syrian district of Afrin.
Turkey-Russia ties ‘too strong to be broken by France’
Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu also criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent comments in which he said Ankara’s support of recent missile strikes on Syria showed it had “separated” from Russia.
“Ankara and Moscow may think differently but Turkey’s ties with Russia are too strong to be broken by France’s president. We have strong ties with Russia,” he said.
Çavuşoğlu claimed Macron wanted to be part of the trilateral summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran held in Ankara in early April over Syria.
Ankara asked other participant countries, while Russia welcomed Iran preferred to host France in a separate meeting and Macron did not attend the trilateral summit, Çavuşoğlu said.
He stressed that Turkey’s relations with Russia were “not an alternative” to its ties with NATO, France and the United States.
He added that Turkey was cooperating with Russia and Iran to try and deescalate the ongoing conflict in Syria despite a long-standing disagreement with them over their support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.