U.S.,NATO have strong interest in keeping Turkey close, says Blinken

Despite differences with Ankara, the NATO alliance must keep Turkey at the heart of transatlantic ties, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.

The United States and NATO maintain a strong interest in keeping Turkey anchored in the alliance, Reuters cited the U.S. official as saying at an event at the NATO headquarters.

“Turkey is a long-standing and valued ally,” and it is in the country’ interest to remain the alliance, Blinken said. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also spoke on Turkey’s role in the alliance during the event.

NATO differs with Ankara on the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile-system, Stoltenberg said, but added that the alliance is a also a platform where alies “sit down around the table and discuss differences.’’

Turkey took delivery of the first S-400 system in July 2019,rejecting concerns the missiles risked undermining the operation security of NATO. Turkey maintains it will not give up the Russian military technology, despite U.S. sanctions over the purchase handed down in December.

Stoltenberg also spoke on Turkey-Greece relations, which have ben strained over hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

The alliance can serve as a “deconfliction mechanism’’ between Ankara and Athens to reduce the risks for incidents or accidents in the disputed waters, the NATO chief said.

“It’s no secret that we have differences with Turkey,’’ Blinken said, but added the country was a  “longstanding and valued ally,’’ which should remain a part of the NATO alliance.