NATO diplomat says Turkey too important to lose
Despite mounting tensions, including Turkey’s recent military actions in northern Syria and purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, NATO has resolved to maintain support for Turkey, Reuters wrote on Friday.
Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles offered a six-month extension of the Patriot missiles for Turkey during a NATO defence ministers meeting on Thursday, after having threatened to withdraw them in protest at Turkey’s offensive into Syrian territory.
This move was part of a change in tone that signals NATO’s determination to keep Turkey close, Reuters quoted NATO diplomats as saying.
The Turkish offensive was launched on Oct. 9 and continued for nine days before stopping when Turkey struck a deal with Russia, where the latter would conduct joint border patrols with it and facilitate the removal of U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, considered by Turkey to be a threat to its national security, from a 30 km strip along the Turkish border.
Twenty eight EU member states, including several NATO members, had resolved to stop arms exports to Turkey because of the operation.
Reuters quoted U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper on Thursday as saying that Turkey’s operation was unwarranted.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, expressing a desire for Turkey to have its own nuclear weapons, and the recent issues with the U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey’s İncirlik base have further added to the tensions.
The country is still important to NATO, however, with its strategic location between Asia and Europe with access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, its large military and contributions to fending off attacks against Europe. The alliance also wishes to present an image of unity before the upcoming 70th anniversary of its founding on Dec. 4, Reuters cited a NATO diplomat as saying.
NATO doesn’t have a mechanism to expel an allied member, Reuters said, and is confident to a degree that Russia won’t be able to match its offer of collective security for Turkey.